Skip to main content

Full text of "Ten wise men, and some more"

See other formats

PN 6155 
Copy 1 


021 100 884 2 » 



"S-, A^ ~-- ' i life , • gr\\i/.</S> r ">-> \\ 

0^ , 

>, V s 

V ^ 

* V V 

■'-- v°,. - -■.- mm a ~r 

' « 

v * 







Profusely illustrated from paintings by J. Harrison Mills; 

drawings by Wetherbee and De Ball, and 

photographs by Gibson, Sykes & Fowler; 



Copyright, 1908, 

By Atwell Printing and Binding Co, 


Two Copies Received 


_ Copyright tntry 
CLttSS CC- XXc. flo 



George Denison Peentice 13 

Henry Faxon, a Humorist and Poet 33 

Artemus Ward, Exhibitor of Moral Wax 

Works 45 

Alphonso Minor Griswold, the Fat Con- 
tributor 59 

Eugene Field, the Children's Poet 67 

Edgar Wilson Nye, known as "Bill" 87 

George Wilbur Peck, Father of "Peck's Bad 

Boy" l 109 

Opie Read, a Famous Novel Writer 121 

Robert Love TJylor, Governor and Senator. . 145 

Benjamin Franklin King, the Michigan 

Bard 163 

Some More . . ; 176 


During forty odd years of constant newspaper 
work in southern and western regions of this 
republic, with occasional journeyings to the north 
and east and some trips elsewhere, this writer 
has met and made friends with a "right smart 
chance" of people. Among these were several men 
who have earned and received international fame 
as humorists. Concerning these last I will write 
in this book, if my lamp holds out to burn until the 
manual and mental labor can be performed, and 
it will be a labor of love. I shall write particularly 
of ten humorists, living here or gone beyond, who 
have been, and are, my warm, personal friends. 
Incidentally there will be some account of other 
humorists of more or less fame whom I have met 
casually, or have known through the free-masonry 
of journalistic brotherhood, and who have been 
associated with the "Ten Wise Men" in ways that 
have made them necessary to this history. 

In preparing this book, no desire to shine from 
reflected greatness has entered the work by the 
slightest hope or thought, but in planning its 
manner I have decided that the sanest method will 
be to work in chronological sequence, as to my 
own acquaintance with these men and my conse- 
quent knowledge of them. I shall write with an 
aim to avoid the ego, even at the expense of now 
and then leaving out a good story in which my 
own personality would be involved. 

All true humorists are full of purest pathos. I 
have seen some of them so full of other things that 
one would wonder how they could hold anything 
else. But they did. 

vi F R E F A C E 

It is true that once in a while, springing out 
like the jack-in-the-box, comes a coarse and con- 
ceited clown, literary mountebank and butting-in 
buffoon who is mistaken by himself and a few oth- 
ers for a humorist. He and his audience laugh 
with his breaks, just as they would at a "slap- 
stick" comedian falling over a bench. 

Tailings from such a lead run high in vulgarity 
and very low in anything commendable when 
tested under proper assay. 

The sudden to come and quick to quit humorist, 
of the "slap-stick" quality is frequently used 
temporarily, under high finance pressure, to utter 
funny brays at persons and things — and persons 
are sometimes only things — that may deserve such 
cruel and unusual punishment. For this he may 
win from better folks the same sort of gratitude 
that a lady gave to a profane hack-driver who ef- 
ficiently "cussed" a departing train that both had 
missed. She couldn't manipulate such able-bodied 
words herself, but she felt that the man was do- 
ing something like justice to the subject, and when 
he had finished pouring vocabulated brimstone into 
that train, she said with decided warmth and a 
sigh of relief, "Thank you, sir." 

Men who indulge in the brutal wit referred to, 
merely and simply do the dirty work, which you 
would prefer having some one else perform, and 
that kind of humor will not stand the test of a 
time beyond the occasion which brought it forth. 
Such a man may be a coarse wit, and sharp and 
smart in his way, but he is not a humorist. 

True humor is gentle and broad and kind and 
liberal, and it will lend you a dollar and a half; 


and it is so near of kin to pathos that the two 
blend together like the tints of the rainbow, and 
so imperceptibly that, like the rainbow's causes, 
you find the sun of your smiles shining through 
the showers of your tears. 

The man who laughs is the man who weeps, 
when affected by that which is pathetic, or when 
tears should come by sympathy. The jolly good 
fellow is always your best neighbor, and you feel 
more like borrowing his spade, or his frying pan, 
or his morning paper, than you would that of the 
grim old curmudgeon who is fenced in by his own 
dignity, which is generally the briar hedge of 

The happy-hearted man is the good Samaritan 
who dresses your wounds and pours healing balm 
upon them, while the haughty priest and the Levite 
pass by on the other side. 

Of course there is not always pathos in all 
humor, but the men who write humor are gener- 
ally tender-hearted and frequently broke, and there 
is pathos in being broke until one gets used to it; 
then it becomes a standing joke, but a very serious 
one. After a while he gets rich on the principle — 
and interest — that "when things are at their worst 
they mend," and generally as soon as a man gets 
rich he quits being a humorist and loses his pathos. 

Nearly all true humorists are also poets. Many 
of them may not write any poetry in metrical 
verse, but they think and say poetic things and 
know good poetry when they see it. Josh Billings 
has said that he never saw a fine poem but he felt 
that if he had been going to write poetry he would 
have written that kind. Indeed, many a poet has 

viii P R E F A C E 

lived and died who never wrote a line, in the same 
way that: 

"Many a gem of purest ray serene 
The dark, unfathom'd caves of ocean bear; 
Pull many a flower is born to blush unseen 
And waste its fragrance on the desert air." 

"Billy" Manning, once a famous minstrel, now 
gone over to the other side, was one of the most 
tender-hearted and genial of men, and, unlike the 
majority of his professional brethren, he had 
some original humor — spontaneous wit — which did 
not come from ancient almanacs or newspaper 
paragraphs. He was not forced to depend upon 
his memory for his funny things. "While he was 
on his deathbed, in the last stages of consumption, 
"Uncle Dick" Hooley, then a well known theatrical 
manager of Chicago, called on Manning and the 
two had a long talk together reminiscensing about 
the stage. In their conversation they spoke of 
Dan Bryant, another famous minstrel, who had 
died a few weeks before, and who had been an 
intimate of both Hooley and Manning. Then the 
conversation took another turn, and "Uncle Dick," 
wishing, perhaps, to flatter Manning a little on the 
condition of his health, having in mind the fact 
that consumptives seldom think they are going to 
die of that disease, asked Manning if he had made 
his engagements for the coming season. 

"Oh, yes!" was the reply in a husky voice. 
"Where do you think you will work?" queried 
the old man. 


With a twinkle in his eye, and something of a 
return of his old-time jollity, the dying minstrel 

"I guess I'll go on tne other end with Dan." 

There was humor and pathos and poetry in that. 

Humorous writers "began work in this world at 
a time "whereof the memory of man runneth not 
to the contrary." There can be no doubt that Job 
was a humorist. But in all the periodical literature 
printed in English of the century ending about 
fifty years ago, the mind reverts to no writer 
tnereof who tickled the ribs of the public a great 
deal except Tom Hood and Douglas Jerrold. 

In a general way the British comic publication 
has been exceedingly melancholy., In the language 
of Bill Nye, "The average English joke has its 
peculiarities. A sort of mellow distance; a kind 
of chastened reluctance; a coy and timid, yet 
trusting, though evanescent intangibility, that soft- 
ly lingers in the troubled air and lulls the tired 
senses to a dreamy rest, like the subdued murmur 
of a hoarse burro about nine miles up the gulch. 
In fact, English humor is like a sore toe. It makes 
you glad when you get over it. It is like having 
the smallpox, because if you live through it you 
are not likely to have it again." 

However, within the last half century, the broad, 
exaggerative style of American newspaper humor 
was planted and it has run riot ever since. Indeed 
there is a sort of itch for humor, that seems to be 
catching, and it has set a great many to scratch- 
ing. It is one phase of cacoethes scribendi. Nearly 
every amateur scribbler sends things to the news- 
papers which he says are funny. Generally the 


editor that receives them is quite grateful for the 
information, as he would never have known that 
they were funny had not the writer told him so. 

The men who prepare the humorous pabulum 
that is intended to gratify the public appetite for 
the kind of fun under consideration, generally do 
their work while the other part of the world is 
asleep. Those who know how to dish up the real 
thing, frequently, after a long ana faithful service, 
finding that they have acquired the blessings of 
good conscience and competency, allow humor to 
take the reins and they take rest and comfort — as 
in the rythmic story of 


Arrah! Katie's a rogue, it is true, 

And her eyes like the skies are so blue, 
And her dimples so swate, and her ankles so 

She dazed and she bothered me too. 

Wan mornin' we wint for a ride, 

Phwen demure as a bride be my side, 

The darlint she sat, wid the wickedest hat 
'Neath a purty girl's chin iver tied. 

Thin I sat jist as mute as the dead, 
Till she said, wid a toss of her head, 

"If I'd known that today ye'd have nothing to 
I'd a gone wid my cousin instead." 


Thin I felt meself grow very bold, 
For I knew she'd not scold if I told 

Of the love in me heart that wad niver depart, 
Tho' I grew to be wrinkled and old. 

An I said: If I dared to do so, 

I'd let go of the baste an' I'd throw 

Both arms round her waist an' be taking a taste 
Of thim lips that were tazin' me so. 

Thin she blushed a more illigant red, 
An' she said, widout raisin' her head, 

An' her eyes looking down, 'neath her lashes so 
"Wad ye like me to drive, Misther Ted?" 




At the close of the Civil War, in 1865, a twenty- 
year-old boy who had seen three years of service 
at the front, was in Louisville, just mustered out 
of the army and looking for something to do 
whereby to earn a livelihood. 

This boy had written some letters, while in the 
army, to the Louisville Journal, which had been 
printed, and he innocently thought that perhaps 
he had made such an impression upon George D. 
Prentice, famous then as the editor of that news- 
paper, that he might obtain a place as associate 
editor, or something of that sort. 

It happened, however, that just then Mr. Pren- 
tice had all the associate editors he cared to have, 
and it also happened that Mr. Prentice's amanuen- 
sis was engaged, just then seeing what he could 
do to absorb the output of Kentucky's justly cele- 
brated liquid staple. Thus it further happened 
that when the young ex-soldier applied at the 
Journal office for employment the man at the desk, 
after some questioning as to the applicant's capa- 
bilities, told him that he could go on as Mr. Pren- 
tice's amanuensis. 

Now, this ex-soldier was not in the least in- 
formed as to what an amanuensis was, but de- 
clared his entire willingness to be anything that 
involved writing fcr the paper. The man at the 
desk informed the newspaper recruit that writing 
for the paper was exactly what the amanuensis 
would be required to do, and, moreover, he would 
write the leading editorials. And that was exactly 
what he did. He wrote them at Mr. Prentice's 

The new amanuensis was introduced to Mr. 
Prentice immediately, and the great wit, poet and 


political writer declared, in his remarkably candid 
and impulsive way, that he liked the looks of the 
young fellow and they prepared to begin work at 

Just then, however, there came a rap at the 
door and Mr. Prentice said: "See who is there 
and if he looks respectable admit him." 

The door being opened, there stood an exceed- 
ingly handsome man. He appeared to be about 
twenty-seven years old; his hair was dark and 
clustered in curls upon his shapely head. He was 
richly dressed, but not fashionably — he wore the 
blue, broadcloth, swallow-tail coat of half a cen- 
tury before, with the smooth and shiny brass but- 
tons of that time, a buff vest of some soft and 
graceful material, doeskin trousers, patent leather 
shoes, and in his hand, at that moment, he held 
his black slouch hat. The card that he gave to 
the amanuensis bore, in blue or red pencil, the 
Latin words, "Civis Americanus Sum," and the 
name printed on it was "George Francis Train." 

Mr. Train was at that time traveling over the 
country with Susan B. Anthony, Mrs. Cady Stan- 
ton, Anna Dickenson and other woman suffrage 
advocates, making a crusade in that behalf 

Being presented to Mr. Prentice, Train, for the 
slightest part of an instant, exhibited his astonish- 
ment at the appearance of the man before him. 
Prentice was then about sixty-one years of age. 
His hair was iron-gray and fell in almost a leonine 
mass upon his shoulders. His beard was six or 
eight inches long and was wrapped, three or four 
inches from the end, above, in a wisp, with a cot- 
ton string to keep it out of his way. He wore a 
torn woolen jacket; his vest and shirt front were 
stained with tobacco; his trousers were frayed at 
the bottom and his feet were in slip-shod shoes. 
But he had keen dark eyes, that were shelved over 
by a high and bulging forehead. His smile was 
kindly and reassuring, and his voice was low and 
gentle, but somewhat nasal and piping. 


Prentice and Train talked pleasantly together a 
few minutes and then Train withdrew. As soon 
as he was gone, Mr. Prentice said to his 
amanuensis : 

"Write. I desire to dictate a paragraph con- 
cerning Mr. Train." 

This old editor always began his paragraphs 
with what in printer parlance is a "fist," — a little 
cut of a hand with the index finger pointing — and 
he called out his punctuation points as he pro- 
ceeded. The new amanuensis wrote rapidly and 
this was the way he took Prentice's dictation in 
that first paragraph : 

"Fist. A locomotive that has run off of the 
track, comma, turned upside down, comma, with 
the cow-catcher buried in a stump and the wheels 
making a thousand revolutions a minute. Full 
stop. A kite in the air that has lost its tail — dash, 
a human novel without a hero — dash, a man who 
climbs a tree for a bird's nest, comma, out on a 
limb, comma, and in order to get it saws the limb 
off between himself and the tree. Full stop. A 
ship without a rudder — dash, a clock without hands 
— dash, a sermon that is all text — dash, a 
pantomime of words — dash, the apothesis of talk, 
comma, the incarnation of gab. Full stop. Hand- 
some, comma, muscular, comma, as neat as a cat, 
comma, clean to the marrow, comma, a judge of 
the effect of clothes, comma, frugal in food and 
regular only in habits. Full stop. A noonday 
mystery — dash, a solved conundrum — dash, a prac- 
tical joke in earnest — dash, a cypher hunting for a 
figure to pass for something; semi-colon, with the 
brains of twenty men in his head, comma, all pull- 
ing in different directions; semi-colon, not bad as 
to heart, comma, but a man who has shaken hands, 
comma, goodbye to reverence. Full stop. This is 
George Francis Train. Full stop." 

When Mr. Prentice looked over this piece of 
manuscript he laughed himself almost into a fit, 
and the young ex-soldier wondered if it was a com- 
mon thing for great men to laugh so at their own 


productions. He learned, afterward, that it was the 
verbatim style of the new amanuensis that so 
tinkled the old editor, but it impressed Mr. Pren- 
tice with the faithfulness of his new man, and in 
a little while the young fellow learned to be a 
great help to his employer and was associated with 
him until his death, as amanuensis, and as a 
writer of his own matter on the Journal. 

That ex-soldier was this writer. 

In Prentice's day there were more alleged 
poetesses in his environment than, perhaps, ever 
danced attendance upon any other master of the 
rhyming art. Prentice was their literary prop. 
When he died many a muse fell ill, and the 
poetesses that had lived a lie brought no more 
harmony from their lyres. Prentice was morbidly 
fond of women and . when one who was passably 
good-looking came to him with a piece of verse 
he at once declared that it was charming, took the 
limping rhymes and string-halted rythm, band- 
aged and doctored them until they were printable, 
and then published them in the Journal with a 
beautiful compliment to the alleged authoress. 
Then the Journal would have another pet poetess 
and Mr. Prentice another pupil in versification. 
Many of these acquired some local fame before 
Prentice died, but afterward, having no one to 
clothe their hideous skeletons of verse in beautiful 
garb, they gave over the singing of sweet song. 

A few, however, had the divine afflatus and they 
wrote on. Among the true poetesses of Prentice's 
many proteges were "Amelia," who died before 
him; Mrs. Piatt, whose maiden name was Sallie 
M. Bryan, and Mrs. Hill, who, in her poetic days 
was Agnes Leonard. 

The husband of Mrs. Piatt was John J. Piatt, for 
a long time Mr. Prentice's amanuensis, then Li- 
brarian of the House of Representatives at Wash- 
ington ; a poet himself, but one of the sombre kind, 
and it was he, associated with Prentice's grandson, 
George D. Prentice, Jr., son of Clarence Prentice, 
who collated Mr. Prentice's poems and published 


them in a book after Prentice's death. It was 
Piatt's natural sombreness that led him to suppress 
the great wit's humorous efforts in verse. Among 
those suppressed was one entitled, "The Captive 
Eagle," which was a classic and yet richly amus- 
ing. The poem told how an eagle had swooped 
down and fastened his talons in a huge fish that 
he could not pull out of the water, and as the 
fish could not pull the eagle under and the eagle 
could not let go, the manner in which that ma- 
jestic bird skimmed over the lake riding his dol- 
phin charger was exceedingly funny. Too funny 
for serious Mr. Piatt. 

Hence the persons who wish to see the bright 
side of Mr. Prentice's verse must wait until some 
one with a jolly side to him has culled from among 
the files of the old Louisville Journal the flowers 
of Prentice's poetic fancy, and will therefrom make 
a bouquet which will have some sprightly jump- 
up-johnnies, daffodils, snap-dragons, and that sort 
of thing, as well as stately lilies, proud roses, 
modest daisies and violets, intertwined with weep- 
ing cypress and mourning myrtle. 

Prentice was a stickler for truth and he would 
not pardon a lapse therein to his best friend of 
literary pretensions. He loved Theodore O'Hara, 
but one day he quoted a quatrain from O'Hara's 
most famous poem, thus: 

"On fame's eternal camping ground 
Their silent tents are spread, 
And glory guards, with solemn round, 
The bivouac of the dead." 

Then turning to his amanuensis, he said: "I ask 
you, as a soldier, did you ever see a tent on a 

Prentice came to Kentucky from Connecticut to 
write the life of Henry Clay, who was then being 
groomed for his first presidential race. The book 
was written so well and in so short a time, that, 
the author made a strong impression among the 
followers of Clay, and they established the Louis- 


ville Journal and turned it over to Prentice. To be 
the editor of such a newspaper at such a time — it 
was in the '30's — required physical courage, and its 
occasional use in personal encounter. In Prentice's 
case a strong heart was especially necessary, for it 
was common in those days for the rude yeomanry 
of the southwest, to entertain the idea that a man 
from New England wouldn't fight. The sooner 
the yeomanry could be convinced to the contrary 
the sooner the necessity for fighting died out. Pren- 
tice showed his teeth and his grit quickly, and for 
this reason those only who were much in quest of 
trouble bothered him after it became known that 
he was quite "willinV 

During the time that Prentice was writing Clay's 
life, at Olympian Springs, in Bath county, Ken- 
tucky, and when the former was about twenty-six, 
he had gone one morning, as was his custom, to 
the woods and a favorite tree where a spring of 
cool chalybeate water was. The shotgun that he 
always took with him, for use in the chance of a 
shot at some object of game, stood against the 
tree on the opposite side from where the young man 
was busy at his manuscript. Presently a native 
put in an appearance. He was an able-bodied 
specimen of the Jackson Democracy, with rifle in 
hand, and he had an unpleasant look that was not 
improved when, in answer to an inquiry for it, 
Prentice had given his name. In an insolent tone 
the man said: 

"You are writin' Clay's life, hain't ye?" 

"Yes," was the reply. 

"Well, I want you to write my life," said the in- 
truder, "an' I want you to do it mighty quick, too.'* 
His look was threatening. 

Prentice suddenly reached behind the tree and. 
snatching his gun, presented it, full cocked, in the 
face of his visitor, remarking as he did so: "1 
won't write your life, but I don't mind taking it, if 
you insist that something shall be done with it." 

A grim smile came over the visage of the native, 
and after complimenting Prentice for his "game" 


and having made a sort of apology, declaring that 
he had been only joking, he took his departure. 

Prentice's frankness was refreshing. Illustra- 
tions of his candor are given in the two following 
anecdotes. But hundreds more of the same kind 
might be truthfully told concerning him. 

Will S. Hays, the famous Kentucky song writer, 
was in the latter days of the old Journal, river re- 
porter for the Democrat. Hays was a very sudden 
young man, good-natured, jolly, witty, but lacking 
somewhat in reverence, and he had a habit of call- 
ing persons old enough to be his grandfather by 
their given names. Visiting Prentice one day, as 
a fellow poet, after some desultory talk, Hays said: 

"I suppose, George, you have seen my last song?" 

Prentice looked up at Hays, who was seated 
cross-legged on Prentice's table, and with a twinkle 
in his expressive eyes quietly replied: 

"I hope so, Bill." 

"Bill" looked around for a second or two, as if 
something had tapped him, and then slid down 
the baluster-rail to the front door. 

Once when Prentice was coming out of a public 
building and through a set of double doors that 
swing in and out, a young fellow approaching from 
an opposite direction, took the left side, and as 
Prentice had, very properly, taken the right side, 
the result was both were pushing at the same half 
of the doors. Prentice, however, being much the 
stronger of the two, gave an impatient and mighty 
surge, the door flew open, and the young fellow was 
sent sprawling on the floor. Prentice assisted him 
to arise and as he did so he said: "My young 
friend, I have this piece of advice for you: If you 
will always keep to the right, in your way through 
life, you will never run against anyone but a fool, 
and you need not apologize to him." 

Prentice and Horace Greeley were bitter political 
enemies and fought each other in their newspapers 
nearly all the way through their professional lives, 
but there was no personal animosity between them. 
Illustrative of this: Once when Greeley came to 


Louisville to lecture, Prentice occupied a chair 
near the Tribune sage and listened with wrapt at- 
tention to every word that fell from his lips. 
Shortly afterward Prentice wrote the following 
poem, which explains itself, and which is entitled: 


I send thee, Greeley, words of cheer, 

Thou bravest, truest, best of men, 
For I have marked thy strong career, 

As traced by thy own sturdy pen. 
I've seen thee struggle with the foes 

That dared thee to the desperate fight, 
And loved to watch the goodly blows 

Dealt for the cause thou deem'st right. 

Thou'st dared to stand against the wrong 

When others faltered by thy side; 
In thy own strength hast dared be strong, 

Nor on another's arm relied; 
Thy own bold thoughts thou'st dared to think, 

Thy own great purposes avowed, 
And none have ever seen thee shrink 

From the fierce surges of the crowd. 

Thou, all unaided and alone. 

Did'st take thy way in life's young years, 
With no kind hand clasped in thy own, 

No gentle voice to soothe thy tears. 
But thy high heart no power could tame, 

And thou hast never ceased to feel 
Within thy veins, a sacred flame 

That turned thy iron nerves to steel. 

I know that thou art not exempt 

From all the weaknesses of earth, 
For passion comes to rouse and tempt 

The truest souls of mortal birth, 
But thou hast well fulfilled thy trust, 

In spite of love and hope and fear, 
And e'en the tempest's thunder-gust 

But clears thy spirit's atmosphere. 


Thou still art in thy manhood's prime, 

Still foremost 'mid thy fellow men, 
Though in each year of all thy time, 

Thou hast compressed three score and ten. 
Oh! may each blessed sympathy, 

Breathed on thee with a tear and sigh, 
A sweet flower in thy pathway be, 

A bright star in thy clear blue sky." 

During the last forty years of Prentice's life he 
was afflicted with corea scriptorum, less technically, 
scrivener's cramp, more vulgarly, writer's paralysis, 
a nervous disease of the fingers caused by exces- 
sive writing. But by taking hold of a pencil with 
both hands he could with great difficulty write a 
few words. Thus he would maKe little memoranda 
on the margins of newspapers, and these he would 
tear off and deposit in his hat, where he kept a 
never-failing supply of suggestions for the terse 
and epigrammatic paragraphs for which he was so 
famous. In quiet hours he would by the same 
laborious process make the framework of his poems 
and afterward dictate them to his amanuensis in 
full-blown beauty. 

"The Closing Year," which was probably Pren- 
tice's masterpiece in verse, and which is one of the 
finest poems in the language, had doubtless been 
framed in the way mentioned above, but the man- 
ner in which it came out was unique, to say the 

It was New Year's eve and the carriers of the 
Journal had no "address" for their patrons for the 
day that was to follow, a custom that was old and 
in those days of great financial importance to the 
boys who delivered the paper to the city subscrib- 
ers. This Carriers' Address was always a hand- 
somely printed affair that was presented with the 
paper once a year and nearly every subscriber gave 
to his particular carrier a New Year remembrance 
in the shape of a coin. The person who had prom- 
ised to furnish the address for the occasion under 
consideration had failed and the carriers were in 


distress. Mr. Prentice appreciated the situation 
and, notwithstanding that his work for the day 
was finished and he was about to go home, he said 
suddenly to his amanuensis, then the poet, Abe Ful- 
kerson, "Write. I will dictate a carriers' address." 
Thus "The Closing Year" was produced. Some one 
present and in authority, recognizing the strange 
beauty of the poem, caused it to be printed on 
satin — something quite stunning for those days — 
and all Louisville had it the next morning. Many 
of the old citizens have it stored away to this day, 
faded and time stained, among the treasured 
mementoes of an olden time. Following is the 
poem entire: 


" 'Tis midnight's holy hour, and silence now 

Is brooding like a gentle spirit o'er 

The still and pulseless world. Hark! on the winds 

The bell's deep tones are swelling; 'tis the knell 

Of the departed year. No funeral train 

Is sweeping past; yet, on the stream and wood, 

With melancholy light, the moonbeams rest, 

Like a pale, spotless shroud; the air is stirr'd, 

As by a mourner's sigh; and, on yon cloud, 

That floats so still and placidly through heaven, 

The spirits of the Seasons seem to stand; 

Young Spring, bright Summer, Autumn's solemn 

And Winter, with his aged locks — and breathe 
In mournful cadences, that come abroad 
Like the far wind-harp's wild and touching wail, 
A melancholy dirge o'er the dead year, 
Gone from the earth forever. 

AND 80 ME MORE 23 

'Tis a time 

For memory and for tears. Within the deep, 

Still chambers of the heart, a specter dim, 

Whose tones are like the wizard voice of Time, 

Heard from the tomb of ages, points its cold 

And solemn finger to the beautiful 

And holy visions, that have pass'd away, 

f nd left no shadow of their loveliness 

On the dead waste of life. The specter lifts 

The coffin lid of Hope, and Joy, and Love, 

And, bending mournfully above the pale, 

Sweet forms that slumber there, scatters dead 

O'er what has pass'd to nothingness. 

The year 

Has gone, and with it many a glorious throng 
Of happy dreams. Its mark is on each brow, 
Its shadow in each heart. In its swift course, 
It waved its scepter o'er the beautiful, 
And they are not. It laid its pallid hand 
Upon the strong man; and the haughty form 
Is fallen, and the flashing eye is dim. 
It trod the hall of revelry, where thronged 
The bright and joyous; and the tearful wail 
Of stricken ones is heard, where erst the song 
And reckless shout resounded. It passed o'er 
The battle-plain, where sword, and spear, and 

Flashed in the light of midday; and the strength 
Of serried hosts is shiver'd, and the grass, 
Green from the soil of carnage, waves above 
The crush'd and moldering skeleton. It came, 
And faded like a wreath of mist at eve; 
Yet, ere it melted in the viewless air, 
It heralded its millions to their home, 
In the dim land of dreams. 


Remorseless Time! 

Fierce spirit of the glass and scythe! What power 

Can stay him in his silent course, or melt 

His iron heart to pity! On, still on, 

He presses, and forever. The proud bird, 

The condor of the Andes, that can soar 

Through heaven's unfathomable depths, or brave 

The fury of the northern hurricane, 

And bathe his plumage in the thunder's home, 

Furls his broad wing at nightfall, and sinks down 

To rest upon his mountain crag; but Time 

Knows not the weight of sleep or weariness; 

And Night's deep darkness has no chain to bind 

His rushing pinion. 

- Revolutions sweep 

O'er earth, like troubled visions o'er the breast 

Of dreaming sorrow; cities rise and sink 

Like bubbles on the water; fiery isles 

Spring blazing from the ocean, and go back 

To their mysterious caverns; mountains rear 

To heaven their bold and blacken'd cliffs, and bow 

Their tall heads to the plain; empires rise, 

Gathering the strength of hoary centuries, 

And rush down, like the Alpine avalanche, 

Startling the nations; and the very stars, 

Yon bright and glorious blazonry of God, 

Glitter awhile in their eternal depths, 

And, like the Pleiad, loveliest of their train, 

Shoot from their glorious spheres, and pass away 

To darkle in the trackless void; yet Tinic, 

Time, the tomb-builder, holds his fierce career, 

Dark, stern, all pitiless, and pauses not 

Amid the mighty wrecks that strew his path, 

To sit and muse, like other conquerors, 

Upon the fearful ruin he hath wrought." 

It has been said of Mr. Prentice that he wrote 
verses simply for recreation and that he estimated 
lightly his poetic gift. This is a mistake. He 
wrote poetry because he loved it and because he 


couldn't help it And yet, he used to advise young 
people not to aspire to do so, "For," said he, 
"poetry is the most unmarketable article in all the 
booths of vanity fair." It was, however, so deeply 
woven in his nature that it became a part of him- 
self and ever clung around and about him like the 
tendrils of the ivy to the oak. It was to his^ exist- 
ence what the dew and the sunshine are to the 
flowers. He never wearied talking of the beauties 
of nature, and one could sit by him and listen, 
spell-bound, when he described the Mammoth Cave, 
with its deep chasms, Stygian Pools, awful aisles, 
fathomless gulfs, crystal fountains and high-pil- 
lared domes, fretted with the semblance of stars 
and flowers; of Echo River, that wild and wizard 
stream, upon whose dark bosom no star or rainbow 
ever glanced its image of love and beauty. 

He was a wit and humorist as well as a great 
philosopher. He was a living exemplification of 
the kinship between humor and pathos. 

Prentice had some very unpoetic habits, however, 
and his hat was the representative of one of them. 
It was an "Old Curiosity Shop." He always had 
it about half full of papers and memoranda, and, 
as it was a sort of general receptacle, he carried 
his spectacles, pocket-knife, scissors, pencils, every- 
thing, in it, and I have often seen him, absent- 
mindedly, put a well-masticated chew of tobacco 
into it, instead of throwing it away. 

Why genius should be absent-minded is one of 
those things I leave to the learned on the idio- 
syncrasies of the human mind; but Mr. Prentice 
was very much so. He chewed tobacco, and very 
frequently laid his masticated quids on his writing 
table or the mantlepiece, and sometimes, as men- 
tioned, put them in his hat. He was exceedingly 
fond of young animals, and this story will illus- 
trate both of these peculiarities in him: 

One dark, dreary, dismal and drizzly night in 
winter, Charlie Morse, who was then a reporter on 
the Journal, brought into the editorial rooms a 
poor little kitten he had picked up on the street. 


Its coat was wet and bedraggled from the rain and 
begrimed with the filth of the gutter, and it 
shivered with cold until the warmth from the 
grate, beside which he laid it on a rug, had done 
its genial work. Mr. Prentice at once took pity od 
the forlorn creature and adopted it for his pet; 
and under his kind treatment it soon grew to be 
a pretty and saucy one. As the spring days came 
it grew in size and beauty, and brought many a 
chuckle from the old man's heart, as the kitten 
chased its tail among the papers on the exchange 
table, or mischievously pawed at the rapidly-going 
pencils or pens of the editorial workers. 

Every morning Mr. Prentice used to send to 
market for some scraps of beef to feed his feline 
protege, and often, after cutting off bits with a pair 
of scissors and feeding them to the kitten until she 
had enough, there would be a big chunk left. 
This remaining portion Mr. Prentice would care- 
fully wrap up and deposit in the pocket of -the 
skirt of his coat. Then he would forget it. In the 
warm days this meat would assert itself, and the 
old man would come in some fine morning com- 
plaining bitterly of the awful odor that pervaded 
the atmosphere of the editorial rooms, little dream- 
ing that he carried its cause in his pocket. He 
would storm about in his feeble way, and give 
the janitor metaphoric fits; and that old ebony im- 
becile would saturate the sanctum with disinfec- 
tant. It was fun to the boys, and they would let 
it proceed. Mr. Prentice always wore a little, old, 
yarn jacket when at work, and wnen he had doffed 
his coat and donned the "wampus," one of the re- 
porters would slyly rid the pocket of the nuisance, 
and the trouble would discontinue until the next 

A great many people unwittingly confuse George 
D. Prentice of the Louisville Journal with Sargent 
S. Prentiss of Mississippi. Both were natives of 
New England and in many points of character they 
resemble each other, though they differed as widely 
as the poles in a general way. 


Prentice is often spoken of as a duelist, but I am 
quite sure that he never fought a duel, though fre- 
quently challenged. He went to Arkansas once in 
response to that sort of an invitation, but the affair 
was adjusted in a satisfactory way before the prin- 
cipals met on the field. He really had a contempt 
for the ''code duello." 

"I have been credited with being particularly 
game," he once said to this writer. "But the fact 
is that I am somewhat timid. I knew, however, 
when I came to Kentucky, that if I wished to re- 
main here that I must display a willingness to 
fight, and that sort of show has shielded me from 
many a serious difficulty." 

Frequently Prentice escaped duels by means of 
a joke. Once when he had been invited to make a 
target of himself as a matter of "honor," he re- 

"It takes only one fool to send a challenge, but 
it takes two to fight, and I beg to be omitted from 
the category." 

On another occasion he accepted, and having 
choice of weapons, he insisted that each one should 
be armed with a cask of whiskey and a straw, and 
that each should suck with his straw from his cask 
until one should fall and that one should be con- 
sidered vanquished and the other's honor satisfied. 

Frequently, however, Prentice was suddenly 
brought into personal encounter, from which he al- 
ways emerged with full credit and even honor to 
himself. Once, for instance, a Frankfort editor 
fired at him with a pistol, on a Louisville street. 
Prentice closed with the man and had him down 
with a knife brandished above him. Some by- 
standers shouted: "Kill the scoundrel!" "Cut his 
head off!" and the like, but Prentice put away the 
knife, remarking as he did so: "I cannot kill an 
unarmed man," and allowed his foe to arise. The 
two afterward became close friends. 

In such matters Prentice of Louisville was un- 
like Prentiss of Vicksburg, for the latter was nearly 
always "spoiling for a fight" and would shoot "at 



the drop of a hat." It is said of him, and with 
good warrant, that Prentiss would leave a hand at 
a game of poker and go out to exchange shots with 
a gentleman who sought that sort of diversion, and 
would then come back and take up his cards to 
see if he could "open a jack-pot" — whatever that is. 


A little while after taking charge of the Journal, 
Mr. Prentice was in the fiercest focal fire of a po- 
litical battle, and hand to hand with Shadrack 
Penn, the editor of the Louisville Advertiser and 
the champion of Kentucky Democracy in those 
days. Penn's friends expected him to shiver 
Prentice's lance in the onset, but the youthful 


stranger did not hesitate to engage his veteran 
antagonist. He said that while he did not desire 
strife, he was ready for it, and declared that his 
editorial quiver was armed with quills of all sizes, 
from those of the humming-bird to those of the 
eagle, and made Louisville too torrid for Penn, 
who went to St. Louis. 

For eleven years these giants of those days 
waged their polemic war, and Prentice became 
famous throughout the world. 

The remarkable purity of his diction, his won- 
derful versatility of expression, the attic salt of 
his wit, the torturing power of his irony,- his 
satirical sarcasm, the terse epigrammatic force 
which often enabled him to overthrow an adver- 
sary in a single sentence, were too much for Penn 
and he left the city. But they parted as friends, 
and when Penn went away to St. Louis the tribute 
Mr. Prentice paid him was so grand and touching 
that it is difficult to conceive of anything more 

As an editor, Mr. Prentice wrote in simple and 
unmistakable language, sentences that impressed 
the appreciative scholar with admiration for their 
beauty, the politician and discussion with the 
power of his logic, his opponent with awe, and the 
multitude with enthusiasm. 

His eloquence was as grand and lofty as the 
mountains, and as sweeping as the torrent that 
dashes through their go'rges. 

He grasped his subject with a hand of iron, and 
sent his thunderbolts abroad in tones deep and 
full of energy and pathos, while the lightnings of 
his wit and sarcasm gleamed through it frightfully, 
or playfully, or pleasantly. 

His humor was as rich and sparkling as the best 
champagne, and his satire as keen as the best 
Damascus blade. As a poet, he was sublime, for 
when in that muse's mood his mind seemed lifted 
e'en beyond the highest flight of 


"The proud bird, 

The condor of the Andes, that can soar 
Thro' heaven's unfathomable depths or brave 
The fury of the northern hurricane, 
And bathe his plumage in thunder's home." 

At the time of his birth a furious storm was 
raging throughout the country — his life was one 
almost continuous storm, and when the golden bowl 
was broken and the silver chord unstrung, and 
the spirit of the great man took its flight to the 
God who gave it, the skies wept rain drops for his 
memory — the bleak wintry winds rushed wildly 
and sadly by, lending their mournful music to his 

La Belle Riviere — the beautiful Ohio — on whose 
lovely banks he dwelt, swelled up in awful agony, 
and while the country mourned her heaven-gifted 
son, the world's constellation of literary stars hid 
their twinkling lights behind a cloud of sorrow, as 
this companion gem flew from its orbit into the 
interminable space of eternity. 

Prentice married in 1840, a brilliant belle of the 
Blue Grass region, and they had two sons, their 
only children, Courtland and Clarence. Courtland, 
the eldest, inherited to a great degree, the talents 
of his gifted father and gave much promise of be- 
coming a man of fame in letters, but he joined the 
Confederate army, as an officer, early in the war, 
and was killed in a skirmish at Augusta, Ky., 
about two months afterward. Mr. Prentice idol- 
ized Courtland and deeply mourned him. Later on, 
Clarence joined the Confederate army and gained 
the rank of colonel. In a personal rencontre, he 
was involved in the killing of a hotel proprietor 
at Abingdon, Virginia, and his father was forced 
to go to Richmond to exert all the influence he 
could bring to bear with the authorities of high 
Confederate rank to save Clarence from condign 


Returning from the war Clarence was admitted 
to the bar in Louisville but changed his mind and 
studied medicine, in which profession he graduated 
but never practiced. Shortly before the elder 
Prentice's death Clarence was thrown from a 
buggy near his home, west of Louisville, and was 
instantly killed. He left a son, George D. Pren- 
tice, Jr., whose mother was of the Austrian nobil- 
ity. At the time of the elder Prentice's death, this 
grandson, was the only living representative of 
George D. Prentice's immediate family. He went 
into the pratcice of law in San Francisco, with his 
grand mother's brother, Col. Calhoun Benham, of 
the California metropolis. 

When Prentice died he was succeeded on the 
Courier-Journal as a paragrapher by John E. 
Hatcher, one of the gentlest and most lovable men 
I ever knew, and he was as modest as a girl. For 
years Hatcher wrote the bright and beautiful, 
witty, classic and humorous things for the Courier- 
Journal. Long years he hobbled from his home to 
his office and back again, asking nothing of the 
world further than the elegant living for himself 
and wife and daughter that his splendid salary 
gave. Hatcher made the most exquisite poetry and 
denied that he was a poet, and wrote the most 
sparkling humor under the nom de plume of G. 
Washington Bricks, but would have considered it 
a great joke for any one to have called him a 
humorist. Yet his paragraphs were more generally 
copied ten years ago than those of any paragrapher 
in the United States. His wife and daughter died 
six or seven years ago, and broken-hearted and 
pining for them, he quickly followed to those fair 
meadow lands whose dews are the balsam of 




Mr. Prentice was much an admirer of Henry 
Faxon, who for a short time immediately preced- 
ing the Civil War was associated with him as a 
special writer on the Louisville Journal. Faxon 
went from Louisville to Columbia Tennessee, and 
was the editor there, for a little while, of a weekly 
newspaper, but he really belonged to Buffalo, N. Y. 

The father of the Faxons with whom this chron- 
icle has to do was a printer, and he had nine sons, 
all of them disciples of the black art that is gen- 
erally associated with a devil — an innocent sort of 
a devil he is, however, whose greatest fault is that 
he usually carries away on his face and hands 
more ink than his employer can afford to lose. 

Of the Faxon brothers was Charles, who was 
famous in Louisville newspaperdom as the editor 
of the Courier before its consolidation with the 
Journal, and who is remembered by folks of his 
ilk in the sixth decade of the 19th century as 
being not only a brilliant political writer, but 
possessed of a cheeriness of disposition that was 
perennial, so to speak, and he always wore a 
"plug" hat that looked as if he had inherited it, 
and to which adversity quickly brought the appear- 
ance of a disabled concertina. 

Another of the brothers was Len.,.who published 
newspapers for twenty-five or thirty years at 
Paducah, Ky., and Cairo, 111., and who has been 
mayor of each of these cities and held many high 
places of trust in the "Eden" of Dickens, the capi- 
tal of the modern Egypt. 

Henry Faxon, who was familiarly called "Hank," 
was a man of innumerable accomplishments. He 
could speak many tongues. He was an excellent 
electrician, far ahead of the majority of them in 


his day, and to him Professor Morse owed much of 
his success in the work of perfecting the electric 
telegraph. He was a brilliant musician, had a 
rich singing voice, and frequently delighted his 
company with songs that he sung to his own 
accompaniment on the pianoforte. He was a fine 
draughtsman and cartoonist and often made 
pictures with his pencil that were full of the jolli- 
est fun. In newspaper work he wrote with a 
humor that has never been excelled, and in the 
broad exaggerative style which was not widely 
appreciated in his day. Indeed, he was the orig- 
inator of that class of newspaper humor, and was 
a brilliant poet withal. But he signed nothing. 

Among Faxon's army of bohemian friends, who 
were for the most part his disciples, were Charles 
F. Browne (Artemus Ward), Mortimer Thomp- 
son, (P. Q. Philander Doesticks), A. Miner Gris- 
wold, (The Fat Contributor), and Lieutenant 
Derby, (John Phoenix). Of these and many other 
humorists of that day, it is asserted that they 
took their literary color from Faxon, and they were 
the first of American Newspaper humorists. 

Faxon's delightfully merry stuff was printed and 
reprinted without credit other than to the news- 
papers in which he wrote. Having published no 
book and having made no' compilation of his work 
or other effort to save his personality in literature, 
his fame is circumscribed. 

Withal, Faxon was not without failings, and 
among these was a spirit that sought revenge with 
steady vindictiveness, when he felt himself 
wronged. He had a courtliness of bearing that 
made him at home among princes and lordlings, 
and yet there was an air of good-fellowship about 
him that was as simple as his humblest friend. 

A famous French actress of half a century ago 
came to New York to make a start on an American 
tour. Faxon was editing a newspaper in Troy and 
he called on the lady. She and her manager 
received the editor in a cavalierish way, and, 
speaking to each other in French, made some 


uncomplimentary remarks concerning "American 
deadheads." They offered him some tickets to 
their entertainment, however, which he refused, 
and at the same time horrified them by speaking 
in their own tongue. Nevertheless he attended the 
woman's performances in New York and lam- 
pooned her in the press of that city, to which he 
had free access; he followed her to Philadelphia 
and continued to ridicule her until she became 
"laughing stock." Then she went back to' Prance 
and died of a broken heart, or a broken fortune — 
same thing for her heart was in her portmonnaie. 

After learning his trade as a printer in his 
father's shop, and acquiring a wonderful knowl- 
edge of electricity, for those days, Henry Faxon 
went to college at Yale and graduated there. Dur- 
ing his course he was a teacher in that institution 
of the science of electricity, and helped in that 
way to pay his college expenses. After that he 
was with Professor Morse several years, in Wash- 
ington, assisting him in perfecting the art of teleg- 
raphy, in which he was an expert, and along in the 
1840's was frequently consulted upon knotty points 
in electricity. Faxon was the first man that ever 
sent a dispatch without an instrument. 

Once, while on a railway train, somewhere along 
the New York and Erie Railway, an accident had 
occurred, and Faxon took the wire and telegraphed 
for help by striking the end of the wire against a 
wet place on the ground. This was about 1845. 

It was Henry Faxon who caused Blondin to 
achieve the first great performance in ropewalk- 
ing that gave him a world-wide fame in, and on, 
his particular line. Faxon induced Blondin to 
walk across Niagara River at the falls the first 
time the rope-walker attempted that seemingly 
perilous feat, which he performed so many times 
afterward and with such variations that the thing 
finally grew to be commonplace enough. 

Faxon was the editor of a little newspaper at 
Buffalo at the time under consideration — the sum- 
mer of 1859. A circus had become stranded in 


Buffalo, and with it was this Frenchman, Emile 
Gravelot Blondin, who came to this country in 
1855 for William Niblo, with the original Ravel 
Troupe, and he was part owner of the broken cir- 
cus. Faxon took some sort of a fancy to Blondin, 
or at any rate sympathized with him in his dis- 
tress, and one morning, without having consulted 
Blondin, Faxon printed an article in his news- 
paper, with sensational headlines, to the effect 
that Blondin would walk across Niagara on a tight 

The Frenchman was horrified, and, finding 
Faxon, he exclaimed: 

"Ah, vat ees zis, Monsieur Faxon, zat you say in 
your paper — Blondin vill walk Niagara across on 
ze tight rope? You haf me ruin!" 

"Can't you do it?" Faxon inquired. 

"Oui; I could walk ze Niagara across; but ze 
arrangemong — vat you call? ze paraphernalia — zat 
cost some five, six, seven hoondred dollare, and I 
have not one dollare." 

"Oh! don't bother about that," said Faxon, "I 
will procure the paraphernalia." And he did. 
On June 30th, 1859, Blondin performed the feat 
mentioned. The thing was widely advertised; 
great excursions were organized of persons who 
went to see the performance, and Blondin's fame 
and fortune were made. It is not recorded, how- 
ever, that Faxon ever even so much as got repaid 
for the "paraphernalia." 

Many times afterward Blondin walked across 
Niagara on the tight rope; he carried a man across 
on his shoulders, pushed a loaded wheelbarrow, 
and did all sorts of tricks out there over the roar- 
ing, foaming current, and did similar feats 
throughout the country. 

While in Chicago, at McVicker's Theater Blondin 
once told the writer of an incident connected with 
his Niagara performances. He said: 

-Ze people at Niagara one time present me a 
vera beautiful medal of gold, set wiz diamond, and 
when I was carry ze man on my shoulders across 


Niagara I wear ze medal. One time when we were 
'bout half way 'cross, I think I feel ze medal slip, 
as eef he was falling to ze watare below. My first 
impulse was to catch at ze medal, him to save, but 
I think bettare and say to myself, bettare let ze 
medal go zan ze man. Zat man nevare know, to 
zees day, how near he come go to ze bottom. But 
after all, ze medal not slip, and him I have yet. 
Of course, I could ze rope have caught and save 
myself had I lose ze ballance, but ze man on my 
shoulder, he would not have seen his home some 

Faxon was the happiest when doing something 
to relieve the distress of another, and he was, 
moreover, greatly given to practical joking. These 
two characteristics in him produced a hoax once 
that became famous at the time, and it was near 
about the same time that he caused Blondin to 
walk across Niagara. 

A little south of Buffalo is a beautiful sheet of 
water called Silver Lake, and it had some mys- 
teries about it. In its center was a deep place that 
soundings could not fathom. Its waters were as 
cold as ice and there were no fish or other living 
creatures in it. On its banks a man had built a 
fine hotel, hoping to make it an attractive resort, 
but guests were few and tribulation was plenty. 
Bankruptcy threatened, and the landlord told his 
troubles to Faxon, who had run down there for a 
few days' rest. Faxon liked his landlord. They 
had hobnobbed together and were congenial spirits. 
Faxon confessed to his landlord that he had been 
noticing the drift of things and that he had fixed 
up a plan to fill the hotel if the landlord would 
enter into his scheme. He unfolded, and the land- 
lord somewhat hesitatingly fell in with the plot. 
Faxon went back to Buffalo and secured the serv- 
ices of another genius — a mechanical genius — a 
young German, whose only wealth was his inge- 
nuity and a little tinsmithery. Faxon told him 
what he wanted. The German jumped at the idea. 

He constructed a great tin or zinc monster like 





a sea serpent. It had an immense and fearful red 
month, from which darted a forked tongue, and 
its huge jaws worked like an alligator's. This 
thing was anchored near the deepest place in the 
lake and was so arranged with pulleys and tiller 
ropes, or something of that nature, that being 
worked from a secret sub-cellar in the hotel, the 
monster could be made to dart its head and hideous 
length up out of the lake and lash the water with 
its tail until it would send big ripples to' the 
shores. Its movements were so rapid and eccen- 
tric that the artificiality of the thing could not 
be detected, and it had no regular hours for ap- 
pearance, but was a sort of a go-as-you-please ser- 

Faxon wrote blazing columns in the Republic 
about it. The newspapers all over the country 
had many lengths of that snake in them, in word- 
paintings and other pictures. The hotel became 
crowded, and the landlord put up sheds and tents 
on his premises and filled them with guests, and 
he coined money, so to speak. People went there 
and camped on the shores of the lake. 

And at last Horace Greeley went. He hired a 
boat and some men to row it and went out on the 
lake to see the snake. The monster began to slash 
about down in the deep, green waters and roar with 
that capacious and carmine mouth extended until 
Horace could nearly see its digestive apparatus, 
whereat he yelled to his oarsmen in the language 
of the Sunday School song, "Pull for the shore, 

When he returned home he filled columns of the 
Tribune with that snake, and savants and scien- 
tists of old and new world schools trekked to Silver 
^Lake. The monstrous serpent was a wonder and a 
mystery for a great many more than seven days, 
but at last, in a specially strenuous flop one day, 
the apparatus broke and that old tin serpent 
turned its white belly up to the sun and the Silver 
Lake snake business exploded. 


Meantime Faxon had gone home filled with the 
satisfaction of having done a kind thing for a 
friend, of having succeeded in another sensation 
and of having contributed somewhat to the gayety 
of the season. The landlord had become as rich as 
a king and could have afforded to give the hotel 
away, but he used it for many years as a country 
seat and looked complacently at his fortune as a 
monument to the credulity of mankind and the wit 
of Hank Faxon. 

"When the Troy and Montreal telegraph line was 
built the parties who constructed it were not able 
to run it. Faxon and another newspaper man, L. 
W. Cutler, got possession of it. They bought the 
instruments, which were the old-fashioned House 
style of printing machines, and they got the lines 
on credit. For a while they sailed high, but the 
enterprise failed, and so did Faxon and his partner. 

In writing poetry Faxon would work up a stanza 
and print it. If the bit happened to please him he 
would add other stanzas to it, from time to time, 
and reprint the whole. Occasionally, however, he 
would write an entire poem at once. He wrote 
"Beautiful Snow," a fact which all of his old 
friends are aware of, although there has been so 
much absurd talk about it that the pretty little 
thing long ago became a sort of "guy" among 
journalists. Mr. Prentice, who was a great admirer 
of Faxon, had the original manuscript of the poem 
for a long time, and I frequently saw it, years 
before there were any claimants for it other than 
Faxon's friends for himself, until after Faxon's 
death. Some rhyming charlatan has, since that 
event, published a book of verse with "The 
Beautiful Snow" on its first page, and called it 
"Beautiful Snow and Other Poems," by himself, 
but the remainder of the book, with its bad rhyme* 
and rocky rhythm, gives distinct denial to his 
assertion, prima facie. 

Sometimes, years ago, the authorship of "Beauti- 
ful Snow" was attributed to Dora Shaw — doubtless 
in jest at first — for there was much in the career 


of Dora that would have suggested the motif of the 
poem. She wrote very pretty verses, and was an 
actress of more than ordinary talent. One day 
Miss Shaw was in the editorial rooms of the Louis- 
ville Journal, and Mr. Prentice said to he*r: "Dora, 
why do you claim Hank Faxon's poem?" She 
replied: "My dear sir, I never did such a thing. 
I have been credited with the authorship of 
'Beautiful Snow/ and as I am before the public, 
and such an attribution was valuable to me, I 
never took the pains to deny it." 

Years ago this writer secured and published a 
number of affidavits concerning Faxon's author- 
ship of this poem and printed them in a New York 
newspaper, and proved beyond peradventure the 
truthfulness of these statements. The journal 
in which the affidavits were printed, commented 
editorially, upon their subject matter and declared 
them, and the corroborative facts adduced, to be 
evidence of Faxon's authorship of the poem that 
was distinctly decisive. 

Following are the lines of "Beautiful Snow" as 
originally written and printed by Henry Faxon: 


Oh the snow, the beautiful snow, 
Filling the sky and the earth below! 
Over the house-tops, over the street, 
Over the heads of the people you meet, 


Skimming along. 
Beautiful snow! it can do no wrong. 

Flying to kiss a fair lady's cheek; 
Clinging to lips in a frolicksome freak. 
Beautiful snow from the heaven above, 
Pure as an angel and fickle as love. 


Oh the snow, the beautiful snow! 
How the flakes gather and laugh as they go! 
Whirling about in its maddening fun, 
It plays in its glee with every one. 


Hurrying by. 
It lights up the face and sparkles the eye: 
And even the dog with a bark and a bound 
Snaps at the crystals that eddy around. 
The town is alive and its heart in a glow, 
To welcome the coming of beautiful snow. 

How the wild crowd goes swaying along, 
Hailing each other with humor and song. 
How the gay sledges like meteors flash by, — 
Bright for a moment, then lost to the eye! 


Dashing, they go 

Over the crest of the beautiful snow: 

Snow so pure when it falls from the sky, 

To be trampled in mud by the crowd rushing by; 

To be trampled and tracked by the thousands of 

Till it blends with the horrible filth of the street. 

Once I was as pure as the snow, — but I fell; 
Fell like the snow flakes, from heaven — to hell; 
Fell to be tramped as the filth of the street; 
Fell to be scoffed, to be spit on and beat. 

Dreading to die, 
Selling my soul to whoever would buy, 
Dealing in shame for a morsel of bread, 
Hating the living and fearing the dead. 
Merciful God! have I fallen so low 
And yet I was once like the beautiful snow! 


Once I was fair as the beautiful snow, 
With an eye like its crystals, a heart like its glow; 
Once I was loved for my innocent grace, — 
Flattered and sought for the charm of my face. 


Sisters all, 
God and myself I lost by my fall. 
The veriest wretch that goes shivering by 
Will take a wide sweep, lest I wander too nigh; 
For of all that is on or about me, I know, 
There is nothing that's pure but the beautiful snow. 

How strange it should be that this beautiful snow 
Should fall on a sinner with nowhere to' go! 
How strange it would be, when the night comes 

If the snow and the ice struck my desperate brain: 


Dying alone, 
Too wicked for prayer, too weak for my moan 
To be heard in the crash of the crazy town, 
Gone mad in its joy at the snow's coming down; 
To lie and to die in my terrible woe, 
With a bed and a shroud of beautiful snow! 

Henry Faxon enlisted in the Union army at the 
beginning of the Civil War; was seriously wounded 
early in the conflict, and was discharged from the 
service. Notwithstanding that he worked at jour- 
nalism many months after leaving the army, he 
never fully recovered from his wound, and it even- 
tually caused his end, about the close of the war. 

Henry Faxon was a poet, a wit, a journalist, a 
scientist, a scholar and a patriot. All these in a 
marked degree. 


Artemus Ward — Exhibitor of Moral Wax- Works. 

One night in the old Louisville Journal days — 
that's right, too — one night in those days— it may 
sound contradictory — perhaps I should have said 
"paradoxical," but paradoxical has already been 
used several times in these chronicles and it is 
too good a word to be overworked — Artemus Ward 
came into the editorial rooms. He had been there 
before, but his business was not so important as 
on the- occasion under consideration. Previously 
he had been there simply to see about something 
connected with his lecture that was to be given 
at the Masonic Temple Hall. Now he had come to 
ask us all to go around the corner, to the United 
States Hotel, and "take something." One of us 
said we would "take something" with us — our 
hats, for instance. And Artemus smiled. He was 
good-natured and would smile at almost anything 
if he thought it was expected of him. His lecture 
had been a success — artistic and financial. The 
Journal had been a helpful factor in this and 
Artemus was grateful. There was a great differ- 
ence in the personnel and ways of newspaper folks 
in those days from what they are in these days. 
Besides, the locale had much to do with the con- 

After reaching the "United States," now only a 
place of pleasant memory, the party of six or 
eight ranged in front of the refreshment bureau, 
told stories, emitted jokes, and genialized gener- 
ally. Artemus had invited the persons of the 
party to "nominate," respectively, their choice of 
"pet pizen," and out of the hilarious hubbub came 
requests for "brandy smash, please," "gimme a 
gin sling," "mix me an apple toddy," "little Bonne- 
kamp in mine," "peach and honey, if you don't 
mind," etc., etc., and this was in Kentucky. 


Artemus being at the foot of the class, and being, 
also, the gentleman who was doing the honors, the 
man in white on the other side of the transaction, 
said: "And what will you have, Mr. Ward?" 

Artemus seemed perturbed, bewildered and per- 
plexed. He scratched his head and ruminated, 
turning inquiring glances this way and that, at per- 
sons and things. Then he said, in that quaint 
drawl of his: 

"Before I came to Kentucky I had heard a great 
deal about a famous beverage that was said to 
prevail here, and I had laid off to try it if I ever 
happened to be in the state, but since I have been 
here I have not heard it mentioned." Then sud- 
denly he bethought himself of his memorandum 
book. This he fished out of a side pocket and, 
after running his finger searchingly up and down 
several pages, at last he exultingly exclaimed: 

"Ah, here it is! Just a little whiskey, if you 
please. A little whiskey, if you happen to have it." 

The generation of English speaking people that 
is now lingering in the sixth and seventh decades 
of its time in these vales of sunshine and shadow 
remember "Artemus Ward" as the greatest of 
American humorous writers. This with regard to 
persons of that generation who had, or have, a 
sense of humor and care to remember its fabri- 

Artemus Ward's real name was Charles Farrar 
Browne. He was born at Waterford, Oxford 
county, Maine, April 26, 1834, and died of con- 
sumption at Southampton, England, March 6, 
1867. His father, Levi Browne, was a justice of 
the peace and a land surveyor. His mother was 
Caroline E. Browne, and she was a descendant of 
the Puritan settlers of New England. 

Speaking one time of his descent, Browne said: 
"I sometimes think that possibly we came from 
Jerusalem, for my father's name was Levi and we 
had a Moses and a Nathan in the family. But 
my poor brother's name was Cyrus, and thus we 
may be Persian. But let that pass." 


Charles learned something of the "three Rs" in 
the Waterford school, but he was early appren- 
ticed to the "black art of printing" in the office of 
the Skowhegan Clarion, but did not remain there 
long enough to fulminate upon that thunderous 
trumpet. When he was fifteen he fell into the 
Carpet Bag of Boston edited by t. B. Shillaber, 
who is known to the history of humor as "Mrs. 
Partington," and there are reasons for believing 
that Charles furnished much of the inspiration 
that produced Mrs. Partington's hopeful son 
"Isaac." Charles G. Halpine — "Miles O'Rielly," of 
happy memory — and John G. Saxe, the poet and 
another Tom Hood, were frequent contributors to 
the Carpet Bag, and Browne, whom Saxe was 
fond of calling a "typographical error," "stuck the 
type" that first began to make them great. 
Browne's predisposition to humor, and this sort 
of contagion, soon caused him to break out, and 
he wrote in a disguised hand a funny thing con- 
cerning a Fourth of July celebration in Skow- 
hegan. This he slyly slipped into the "copy box" 
and chuckled over it next day while putting it 
into type. Shillaber discovered the authorship 
and praised it. That was the beginning of this 
delightful writer's work in the line that gave him 
world-wide fame. Speaking of the incident in 
after years, Browne said: 

"I went to the theatre that night; had a fine 
time, and felt that I was the greatest man in Bos- 

Browne was regularly engaged for a time as 
both writer and printer on the Carpet Bag, and he 
was particularly fond of the theatre. He courted 
the people of the stage and learned enough of the 
"show business" to make it valuable to him in 
his work. 

Browne was nothing if not peripatetic, and with 
his living at his finger ends, as a journeyman 
printer, he tramped New England and New York 
but suddenly brought up one day in Tiffin, Ohio, 
where he labored a season as reporter and com- 


positor on the county paper at the more or less 
princely salary of four dollars per week. Then he 
drifted to Toledo and made a local reputation on 
the Commercial. The reporters on the Blade un- 
dertook to make fun of him, but he made fun of 
them, and fun for everybody else in the city. As a 
news reporter he was a distinct failure, but his 
department was always brimming full and running 
over with facetious stuff that people liked, and in 
1859, when Browne was twenty-four, J. W. Gray of 
the Cleveland Plainclealer engaged him as a local 
reporter at the unheard of salary of twelve dollars 
per week, and it was here his fame began to reach 
out until it had no bounds within the sphere of 
humor. It became international and his work is 

When Browne went to work in Cleveland he was 
the most uncouth looking youth in Ohio — and that 
is saying a great deal for those days, under this 
head. His clothes looked as if they had been 
made for a younger brother who was also a horse 
jockey. Indeed, he seemed to be more outside of 
his clothes than in them, for they were evidently 
too short at both ends. But his humorous writing 
improved all the time in f unniness. He took, the 
nom-de-plume, "Artemus Ward," from the name of 
an eminent Massachusetts judge of early times — 
and the law — whom he presented to the world as 
an exhibitor of "moral wax works, three moral 
bares, a kangaroo (a amoozin little cuss) etc., 
ekalled by few and exceld by none." 

Artemus worked incessantly at his desk — which, 
by the way, was a tremulous, carved old table — 
that he had carved considerably with his jack- 
knife — and he would roar with laughter while he 
was writing and slap his long legs in his excess of 
merriment over his own jokes, for he was a man 
who knew a good thing when he saw it, even 
though he had made it himself. His work on the 
Plainclealer soon brought him continent-wide fame, 
and in 1860 he went to New York City, where he 
was received with open arms and other things by 

AN D 80 ME MORE 49 

the wits and bohemians of the metropolis. There 
he succeeded Charles G. Leland as the editor of 
Vanity Fair, but that imitation of London Punch 
did not last long. Artemus, speaking of it after- 
ward, said: "Comic copy was what they wanted 
for Vanity Fair. I wrote some and killed it. The 
poor thing got to be a conundrum and I gave it 

However, the fame of Artemus kept on growing 
and he decided to lecture. He had grown tired of 
writing for the funny press. There was to his 
personality, his manner of speech and his ways, 
an irresistible aspect and atmosphere of delightful 
humor, and he decided upon a burlesque lecture. 
This he called "Babes in the Wood," after having 
rejected "My Seven Grandmothers," and other 

On the evening of December 23, 1861, in Clinton 
Hall, that stood where what was formerly Astor 
Place Opera House, and where now is the Mer- 
cantile Library, Artemus was introduced to his 
first audience, if a few outside "trials on the dog" 
are excepted. The city had been previously more or 
less littered with "dodgers" and "guttersnipes" 
bearing the statement: "Artemus Ward will Speak 
A Piece." 

There was a terriffic storm that night, but it was 
not a storm of the populace to get into the hall. 
The elements conspired and Ward's lecture was 
not a financial success. It was a success as a 
comic lecture, however. 

He published a book entitled: "Artemus Ward, 
His Book." More than forty thousand copies were 
sold in a few weeks, and then Artemus went on 
lecturing and to lecture. At Musical Fund Hall, 
Philadelphia, he appeared before a vast audience 
in a monologue entitled "Sixty Minutes in Africa." 
Behind him on the stage had been hung a large 
and vivid map of Africa, which continent was then 
very much terra incognita — whatever that is — and 
of the region mapped Artemus said: "It abounds in 
various natural productions, such as reptiles and 




He Courted tl e People of the Stage. 


flowers. It produces the red rose, the white rose 
and the neg-roes. In the middle of the continent is 
what travelers describe as a 'howling wilderness;' 
for my part I do not know what it is howling 
about and, indeed, I have never heard it howl, nor 
met anyone who has." That was about all he had 
to say concerning Africa. 

Artemus lectured all over the eastern region of 
the republic, and with the receipts from the box- 
office and the sale of his books he was now con- 
siderably beyond four — or even twelve — dollars 
per week, and somewhat in the lead of the smart 
young men who had made fun of him in Toledo 
and Cleveland and who had said that he was a fool 
when he began to talk about lecturing. 

With his success the clothes of Artemus grew 
better. Indeed, they got to be better than almost 
anybody's — and his hair took to curling. 

Artemus had funny panoramas to illustrate his 
lectures and the names of these lectures might c^s 
well have been the name of anything else. Even 
the programs and bills advertising his lectures 
were funny, and his manner of delivery was so 
exceedingly amusing that often his slightest 
movement would set an audience in a roar. 

Hundreds of humorous stories are told of Arte- 
mus, many of which are true, having originated 
in his perennial desire to have some fun, 

Tom McGuire, the famous theatrical manager of 
San Francisco, telegraphed Artemus in 1863, ask- 
ing what he would take for a hundred nights. 
Artemus promptly responded, "Brandy and sugar." 
He was engaged. 

On the way back Artemus had a good time at 
Salt Lake with Brigham Young and the saints gen- 
erally. There he fell ill and he told me afterwards 
that he got so thin two persons couldn't see him at 
the same time, "but since that," he continued, "1 
have held such hands, at times, that nobody could 
see me." This is a fine point, but doubtless there 
are persons in this republic who will see it. 


An old servant in the house where Ward lived in 
London, miscalculating his capacity for gin, fell in 
the fire and was burned to a crisp. Viewing the 
remains afterwards, Artemus remarked, "Well 
done, good and faithful servant." 

Once in New York Artemus had been out to a 
press supper and was going to his lodgings that 
night, sandwiched between a couple of friends. 
At the supper, "Larboard Watch Ahoy" had been 
one of the songs, and it was echoing through 
Ward's brain as he went along, so every once in a 
while he would yell "Larboard Watch Ahoy." 
Finally a policeman came to him and said he must 
quit making so much noise. Artemus asked, "Who 
are you?" The man replied, "I'm a watchman, and 
if you don't quit yelling like that I'll run you in." 
"Well," said Artemus, "if you are not the larboard 
watch we were not calling you, and you may run 

It was Artemus who asked the conductor of a 
train why he didn't put the cowcatcher on behind 
to keep the cows from coming in at that end and 
running over the passengers. 

On long journeys Artemus was sometimes ner- 
vous and irritable. On such an occasion he was 
once assailed by a talkative individual with "How 
'dy do; nice day; traveling far? What do you 
think of Greeley's way of quelling the rebellion?" 

With well-feigned ignorance Ward said, "Greeley? 
Greeley! Who is Greeley? Don't know him." 

"Why," returned the man, "Greeley of the Tri- 

"Don't know him," replied Ward; "didn't know 
that he had a Tribune." 

The man looked wild, but his loquacity finally 
gost the better of him and he asked, "What do you 
think of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation?" 

"Really, you must excuse me," said Ward, "but 
I don't seem to be acquainted with your circle of 


Almost stunned, the man said, "Thunder and 
lightning, don't you know Abraham Lincoln? Great 
Heavens! did you ever hear of Adam?" 

"Adam? Adam!" queried Ward, "I can't bring 
him to mind. What was his other name?" 

Once when Artemus and Miss Kate Terry 
(Ellen's sister) were jaunting in a cab about one 
of the shopping districts of London, Artemus 
caused the cab to be halted at the curb in front 
of a hardware shop. A salesman came out and 
stood ready to tako the order of the seeming 
customers. Artemus asked for a well-known 
standard book. 

"Aye, sir, but this is an 'ardware shop, ye know, 
and we 'ave no books," said the salesman. 

"Oh! it makes no difference as to the binding," 
Artemus returned. "Any sort of binding will do; 
cloth, calf, board — any old binding, my son." 

"But I said, doncher know, that this is an 'ard- 
ware shop and we do not sell books at all, sir." 

"Oh! about two hundred pages, I should think," 
said the imperturable humorist. "Inch or so 

The salesman returned to the store and informed 
the proprietor that a man evidently insane was 
out at the curb and that he had found it impos- 
sible to make the man understand that this was a 
hardware shop. 

The proprietor went out and, approaching Arte- 
mus, who sat patiently waiting while pleasantly 
conversing with his companion, said, with most 
respectful obeisance: 

"Wat were you pleased to want, sir?" 

"A little three-cornered file," unblushingly the 
humorist replied. "Want to sharpen a saw. You 
keep such things, I suppose?" 

"Certainly, sir," the proprietor said. "I'll 'ave 
it for you in a jiffy." 

The shop-keeper quickly returned with the 
article mentioned, for which Artemus paid the 
few pennies, its price, and drove away. 


There has been no report as to what the shop- 
keeper said afterward to his assistant, who could 
not understand when a customer required iso 
simple a thing as a littte three-cornered file. 

Ward had a phenomenal liking for children 
and often wrote private letters to those of his 
acquaintance. Following is a copy of one of these 
written to a little girl, then of the age of 8 and 
now the wife of a prominent merchant in a New 
York city: 

Salem, Mass., June 18, 1864. 

My Dear Amelia: — I cannot tell you how much I 
miss you. 

It seems as though I had lost all my relatives 
including my grandmother and the cooking-stove. 

Why didn't I put you in a bottle and bring you 
down here with me? But I am always forgetting 
something. The other day I went off and forgot 
my Aunt Sarah, and she's a good deal bigger than 
you are. Mr. Ramsey is also a forgetful man. He 
frequently goes off and forgets his washerwoman. 
Mr. Ramsey is a very fine looking man. He 
reminds me of Mr. Green, the Maiden murderer. 
When Mr. Ramsey goes to the penitentiary, which 
will be very soon, we must send him doughnuts, 
magazines and other literary documents. Mr. 
Ramsey can read print very well. 

I like you very much. I should like you just as 
well if you were twelve years older. I'm very 
singular about some things. 

You spoke to me about a boy who is my rival. 
I should feel very sorry to kill that boy, but he 
may drive me to it. I am in hopes he may take 
himself into a premature tomb — that he may 
choke himself with a large slice of pudding, but 
if he does neither I shall be forced to load him 
with chains and read all my lectures to him. That 
will finish him. His boots may remain, but the 
rest of him will have perished miserably long 
before I have got through. 


You must be a good little girl and always mind 
your mother. Never let your excellent mother 
feel sorry that she is acquainted with you. If it 
hadn't been for her you might have been drowned 
in a soup plate long ago. And if you hadn't ever 
had any mother you might now be in Turkey with 
the other Turkeys. In fact, my dear Amelia, so 
conduct yourself that even on dark and rainy 
days the bright sun may shine wherever you are 
and that the stars (which are next to the sun in 
brightness) may-never flash so brilliantly but that 
you can always look steadily and hopefully toward 
them. Faithfully your friend, A. Ward. 

Artemus delivered his first lecture in San Fran- 
cisco in the then greatest auditorium in that city, 
Piatt's Hall. It was gone even before the earth- 
quake and fire of 1906 took nearly all the balance 
of that city. He toured California in great 
triumph and returned overland in the autumn of 
1864 and lectured in Salt Lake at Brigham 
Young's theatre. The great Mormon leader took 
an immense fancy to Artemus and treated him 
widf abundant hospitality. It was on this trip 
that Artemus conceived his lecture, "Among the 
Mormons" that he aelivered all over the states on 
the eastern side of the Rockies with unprece- 
dented success. Artemus carried in his pockets 
at this time complimentary tickets to his enter- 
tainment that bore these words: "Admit the 
Bearer and one wife. Yours Trooly, A. Ward." 

Having rambled all over the field on this side 
of the ocean Artemus sought pastures new oil 
the other side and died there, poor fellow, at the 
youthful age of 33. 

It was in the latter part of 1866, that Artemus 
Ward began his lectures in Egyptian Hall, Lon- 
don. His first appearance was an ovation, and 
this was true of every appearance during his 
seven weeks there. It was on Friday of that 
week that he had become so seriously ill as to 


prelude the possibility of his going before the 
audience that was deeply disappointed when the 
announcement was made. 

He never stood before an audience again. 

The scholars, wits, poets, dramatists, novelists, 
and even leaders of society, and persons of high 
rank in the nobility and royalty, had greeted him 
with the utmost cordiality and had made his visit 
a continual delight. Charles Reade became his 
devoted friend and Mark Lemon invited him to 
become a contributor to London Punch, and 
Artemus was much elated. 

When Artemus became so seriously ill he went, 
upon medical advice, to the Island of Jersey, but 
even the balmy breezes there failed to recuperate 
him. He was brought back to Southampton and 
could journey no further. The members of the 
"Literary Club" of London, in which he was a 
favorite, visited him at Southampton in couples 
to cheer him. When he died a pall of sorrow fell 
upon all of England and America. His remains 
were brought back to Waterford and buried in 
the family lot of the cemetery there. 

A few years ago, on a certain day, the printers 
all over the United States set each a specified num- 
ber of "ems," the pay for which went to the con- 
struction of a monument that in the New England 
churchyard marks the spot where repose the frail 
tenement that once held in the genial soul of 
"Artemus Ward, showman." 

In the earlier days of Faxon, Prentice and Ward, 
a special friend of Artemus lived, George H. Derby, 
a lieutenant in the United States army, who was 
one of the most distinguished humorists and wits 
of this Nation. He was born in 1823 at Norfolk, 
Mass. He graduated at West Point, July 1st, 1846, 
and was immediately transferred to the topo- 
graphical engineer corps, and served with great 
distinction through the Mexican War. In 1853 
and 1854 he was superintendent of the harbor of 
San Diego, being then on the staff of the com- 


manding general of the military department of the 

As a humorist and a witty writer he gave to 
the world under the nom de plume of "John 
Philip Phoenix," a work entitled, "The Squibob 
Papers," and another called "Phoenixana," 
These volumes were illustrated with pictures from 
his own pencil, and the books are as brilliant in 
humor as those of the best. No one ever saw him 
or heard him talk who was not carried away by 
the sly fund of humor that characterized all he 
said or did. At the same time he was one of the 
quietest, most dignified and courteous gentlemen. 
He died May 15th, 1861, in New York City. 
While at San Diego, Phoenix was once left in 
charge of a daily newspaper during the absence 
of its editor and owner; in that time he changed 
the politics of the paper, for a joke, and assisted 
in defeating its editor's best friends for office. 



Alphonso Minor Griswold, "The Fat Con- 

Frequently, in Louisville and Cincinnati, in the 
four or five years immediately following the Civil 
War, I met A. Minor Griswold, known to humor- 
ous literature and the comic lecture rostrum as 
"The Fat Contributor." At that time this writer 
was on the staff of the Louisville Journal, part of 
the time and then running the Richmond Head- 
light, which was a newspaper printed and pub- 
lished on the great low-pressure steamer Rich- 
mond, plying between Louisville and New Or- 
leans. Sometimes Griswold would run down to 
Louisville on a packet, to visit me, or I would run 
up to Cincinnati to visit him, and once he was my 
guest for three weeks, on the Richmond, to New 
Orleans and return, for we were fast friends — 
with the emphasis on "fast," some of our solic- 
itous friends were wont to say. Those were 
halcyon days — whatever they are — anyhow that 
is what they are often called. 

Griswold was an inveterate punster and his 
salutations were never conventional. There was 
no inquiry on his part as to "How's your health?" 
or the assertion, "It's a fine day," etc. But as if 
he had been speaking to his visitor a moment 
before, he would say, for instance, "I'll race you 
a race down to Race Street," if it were in Cincin- 
nati, or "Did you ever fall over the Falls in the 
fall of the year at Falls City," if it were in Louis- 
ville. He was inordinately fond of such a liter- 
ative facetiae and he illustrated a play on words 
as a "kitten gamboling on a dictionary." When a 
fire destroyed his library he said his loss could 
only be described in "words that burn." 

Notwithstanding the verbal turpitude and dis- 
tressful tendency indicated, Griswold was a real 


wit and humorist, and otherwise a refined gentle- 
man and scholar. 

Griswold made his first appearance on earth 
near Utica, New York, on the 26tn day of January 
1834. No pent-up Utica could hold him, however, 
and as quickly as possible he went through Hamil- 
ton College. The word "quickly" is used ad- 
visedly. Even Hamilton could not hold him. 

A humorous writer of Griswold's day, and 
who was an ardent friend and admirer of "The 
Fat Contributor" and whose pen name was 
"Erratic Enrique," in a short sketch of Griswold 
speaks as follows of the college experience under 

"Griswold was a member of the class of '59 in 
Hamilton, but owing to an unfortunate difference 
of opinion between himself and the faculty, con- 
cerning the proper mode of conducting that popu- 
lar institution of learning, he did not remain to 
complete his collegiate course. He has never 
held the faculty as being to blame in the matter 
at all. The question got in such shape that either 
he or they had to leave, and not desiring to see 
so respectable a body of gentlemen — some with 
families, too — thrown upon the charities of a cold 
and unsympathizing world ('twas in the dead of 
winter), why, he just left himself. Mr. Griswold 
has frequently told me that he looked upon that 
spectacle of self-sacrificing devotion to principle 
as one of the proudest and most praiseworthy 
actions of a life somewhat thickly studded with 
little episodes of that nature." 

Alphonso Minor Griswold was the full name of 
the subject of this sketch. Notwithstanding that 
he disliked the idea of parting his name in the 
middle, he did it as a matter of self protection, on 
the principle that of two evils one should choose 
the least. He explained that he always wrote his 
name "A. Minor" in order to prevent people from 
calling him a major. Mr. Griswold declared that 
he abhorred the pomp and circumstance of war 
and dreaded the application to himself of a mili- 


tary title, something that in those days a man of 
any conspicuity found it difficult to evade. 

Griswold began journalistic life as city editor 
of a little newspaper called the Times, which 
Hank Faxon started in Buffalo; the times were a 
little too hard for the Times and it joined the 
majority at the head of the golden stair. Then 
he perpetrated humorous articles on the Repub- 
lic, of Buffalo, signed, "The Fat Contributor." 
These articles were written for the purpose of 
ingratiating himself with the typographical fra- 
ternity, as at that time he had in view some stu- 
pendous newspaper schemes and the articles were 
chiefly celebrated for the "quad lines" which they 
contained, and were therefore remarkably "fat" 
for the printers. Afterward he found a lifelong 
friend in Artemus Ward, who was then on the 
staff of the Cleveland Plaindealer, and in 1860, 
when Browne was called to New York to work on 
Vanity Fair, Gris, succeeded to his place as asso- 
ciate editor of the Plaindealer. Poor Bob Winan, 
who died a few years ago in the insane asylum in 
St. Joseph, Missouri, was at that time foreman 
of the Plaindealer' s composing room and he has 
often told me that during this time Gris. wrote 
some exceedingly brilliant things, in skeleton 
shape, in his note book, which he was in the habit 
of bringing up every night, a short time before 
the paper should go to press, with the modest 
request that Bob would "make something out of 
them." The place of Winan's death has been 
mentioned; comment would be superfluous. 

For nearly five years Gris. lived in Cleveland 
and made the press of that city hum every time 
he got a chance at the crank, then with a well- 
earned fame he was called to Cincinnati to take a 
position with the Evening Times, a paper that 
was peculiarly suitable as a field for his style of 
writing — rollicking fun, mastodonic exageration 
and fruitful and pleasing fancy. 

Once he started out as the advance agent of a 
circus, but concluded that he could give a better 


show than that himself, and throw in a menag- 
erie, so he wrote a comic lecture and called it 
"Injun Meal," in which no allusion was made to 
even oatmeal, and he made a big hit. "Injun 
Meal" was served up in all the leading cities of 
the United States and some parts of New Jersey. 
During this march of triumph I heard Gris. lec- 
ture in a Missouri city, and I laughed earnestly 
and honestly and afterward complimented the, 
lecturer. Mark the sequel. The next night I 
lectured in the same hall on "Humor and Pathos," 
and Gris. attended. Reciprocity was in order and 
Gris. was equal to the occasion. He said that my 
lecture was one of the best averages that he had 
ever heard; that my humor was exceedingly 
pathetic and that my pathos was the soul of 
humor. But everything comes right with the 
whirligig of time, and behold I have the privilege 
of talking out in church about that man, ha ha! 
When Griswold delivered humorous lectures he 
was advertised as the "Fat Contributor," and 
everybody expected to see a man of stunning 
avoirdupois. He always had some one go on the 
stage before he did, who pretended to be examin- 
ing its capacity for holding up an immense party. 
This would raise expectancy to tip-toe and of 
course there was a big laugh when Gris. came 
tripping out, a dapper little dandy, not bigger 
than a pound of soap after a day's washing. In 
one place where he lectured the audience found 
fault with the size of the lecturer, but then he 
had good reason to find fault with the size of the 

He told me once that in order to get started as 
a lecturer he visited a suburb of Cincinnati and 
intimated to some parties there what he came for. 
They said he had come to the right place as they 
had started a good many lecturers from there. He 
said his audience that night consisted of a single 
individual — who was married— an immensely fat 
party, who in a little while arose as one man — 


and went out. As he went he said if Gris. would 
lecture there another night his audience would be 
larger; he couldn't come himself, but he would 
send his wife, who outweighed him eighty 

To advertise his lecture Gris. had a cut of a 
machine for stopping a runaway horse. It was a 
picture of a beam running out from the top of the 
buggy over the horse and so arranged with 
pulleys that the horse could be lifted off his feet 
and his locomotion be thus suspended. 

Traveling one day from Cincinnati to Columbus, 
in company with Gris. he was telling me of hav- 
ing delivered his "Injun Meal" the night before 
in a backwoods town of Kentucky. During this 
lecture he had said that when Columbus started 
Over to discover this country the boys telegraphed 
down to him that if he would wait until they 
could make it on their bicycles, and the steam 
cars, etc., they would come down and see him off. 
A burly and unappreciative native stood at the 
door as the audience was leaving the hall and 
remarked to a friend, in the hearing of Gris., and 
for his benefit: 

"That rooster don't know nothin' about history. 
There warn't no telegraphs, an' steam kyars, an s 
the like er that in the days of Columbus." 

When Gris. told this on the train there was a 
general laugh, except from a big Hoosier who sat 
near. He "dipped in his oar," and triumphantly 
remarked: "Waal, the Kentuckian was right; 
there wasn't any telegraphs and steam cars in 
the days of Columbus." 

With this Gris. gave the Hoosier a withering 
glance and then said to him: "See here, my 
friend, hadn't you better climb into the cattle 
cars somewhere along this road?" 

In 1872 Mr. Griswold and some associates 
started a humorous weekly magazine in Cincin- 
nati that was called Saturday Night. This 
periodical won a large share of success as a humor- 
ous and literary concern in the Ohio and Missis- 





sippi Valley region, and in 1874 Griswold became 
sole proprietor. He here wrought for several 
years and the emanations of his pen were as fre- 
quently quoted in the newspapers of the country 
as those of any man that ever contributed to the 
periodical press. But Griswold was not a busi- 
ness success. Or, to say the most, his successes 
were intermittent, fickle and undulating. He dis- 
posed of his interest in Saturday Night and went 
to New York where for several years he worked 
on Texas Sittings with Alex Sweet. 

During this period he also gave much time to 
his humorous lectures, traveling as far as Puget 
Sound cities, where' this writer saw him last, in 
1891. It was during one of these tours, in 1892, 
that Griswold joined the silent majority. He lec- 
tured in Janesville, Wisconsin, one night and was 
found in his bed at the hotel next morning, bereft 
of the great soul that had won him the love of a 
mighty multitude of good people. 

Personally, Minor Griswold was one of the most 
sociable, genial and warm hearted gentlemen that 
his kind will ever meet. His life was grateful 
shade and mellow sunshine, and the comfort and 
joy of his friends. He had a handsome and pleas- 
ing face in which mirth and good humor danced all 
the time a merry-go-round. The mind of the man 
shone through the windows of his soul, his eyes, 
and to his associates he was ever a well-spring 
of jollity and kindliness. 

Griswold's journalistic accomplishments were 
versatile. He wrote strong and brilliant editorials 
on the general questions of the day; his para- 
graphs were unfailingly bright and smart and he 
wrote more than a quarter of a century. But 
his peculiar forte was in burlesque sketches of 
persons of ancient fame. It is to be hoped that 
some one has preserved them and will yet collate 
them in such a book as he had intended, a proper 
title to which would be: "Tne Has Beens," or 
"Those Who Have Gone Before and Are Now Be- 




From somewhere in the wilds of "Bohemia,' 
that vagahondia in which young newspaper men 
of half a century ago — more or less — delighted, I 
had strayed into its entourage at St. Louis. It 
was late in 1872 or early in 1873 — precision as to 
that is impossible — anyhow it was winter-time 
and "the grass was short." Eugene Field, very 
young and very happy, was the distinct individ- 
ual of the gay party of newspaper "cadets" into 
which I fell, who was particularly friendly and 
helpful to me: He took me to an eminently 
respectable boarding-house, vouched for my be- 
havior and deposited a sufficient number of dollars 
with the landlady to guarantee lodging and sus- 
tenance until I could "connect," and that eventu- 
ated early. 

For some months I met him frequently and a 
friendship was engendered that has lasted ever 
since. Though he has gone over to the other 
world, I love and revere his memory. 

Afterwards, in 1875, while he was in St. 
Joseph, Mo., as the city editor of the Gazette and 
I as city editor of the Herald, we met almost 
every day and night and were devoted friends. It 
was during this period that he, in the Missouri 
State Press Association, caused me to be made 
poet for one year — an instance when a poet was 
"made" such, instead of being thus "born." 

In 1876, when I was married in Omaha, Field 
organized a sort of telegraphic "Round Robin" 
of facetious, congratulatory messages by wire and 
afterward "ran up" with a delegation, one Sun- 
day, to personally "see if it was so." 

In 1881, in Denver, upon returning from a long 
experience in newspaperdom and on the stage in 


California and the far west generally, I again fell 
into pleasant association with Field, and when 
Bill Nye came to Denver to be my guest, I intro- 
duced Nye to Field and others of the newspaper 
fraternity of that ilk. It was Nye's first visit to 
Denver, and at that time the photograph of Field, 
Nye, Leon Mead and myself was made that was 
printed in the Century Magazine, July 1902, and 
elsewhere before and since. At the same time Nye 
and Field were photographed together in Imitation 
of Raphael's (Sistine) 'Cherubs," looking over the 
walls of the New Jerusalem or something — walls, 
at any rate. 

In Chicago in 1886 Field made me acquainted 
with Opie Read, whom I had never met though we 
knew each other through the freemasonry of the 
journalism of that day and generation. The friend- 
ship thus formed has been phenomenally strong 
and pleasant ever since. 

Read and myself attended the funeral services 
that were conducted by Rev. Dr. Frank Gunsaulus, 
where the casket that held all that was mortal of 
Eugene Field was piled high with the floral tri- 
butes of loving friends. When the services were 
over and a long and reverent procession filed by to 
take a last Iook at the face of the dead poet, 
Read and I went another way. We wished to 
remember the face of our friend as we had known 
it in life. 

The foregoing facts have been written here to 
establish the impression that from a long train of 
incidents, extending over nearly a quarter of a 
century, and connected with my acquaintance with 
Eugene Field, and from much correspondence 
with him, I am able to write truthfully and know- 
ingly of the man, yet humbly and admiringly. 

In a series of sketches of poets and humorists 
whom I had known, printed in a Denver news- 
paper in 1884, and which were intended, ulti- 
mately, to be collated in book form, I had written 
one of Field, published October 18, of that year, 


from which the following quoted excerpts are 

"In this age of eccentric literature which has 
produced 'Artemus Ward,' 'Josh Billings,' 'Bill Nye,' 
et al, no brighter jewel has sparkled in the tiara 
of gentle and jolly Thalia, than Eugene Field. Of 
all the writers of humorous verse, not one has 
excelled him, and when writers of a later day 
shall do the tardy justice which brings a fuller 
meed of greatness to poets when they are dead, 
then will Eugene Field be known of all men as 
the gentle poet, par excellence. True, he is 
famous now, but such work as he has done and is 
doing, will improve with age like wine of virtu- 
ous vintage. But not only as one who has 
wrought in versified humor does he shine, he has 
written much of serious and sentimental song 
and touches the heart when he touches a lyric 
strain, and he is withal a bright humorist in 

"Eugene Field was born in the city of St. 
Louis, Mo., in 1850, the son of R. M. Field, Esq., 
one of the ablest, most cultured and highly re- 
spected advocates in law at the bar of that State. 
So prominent were his legal learning and his 
manly integrity that Governor Fletcher selected 
and appointed him to the bench of the Supreme 
Court of Missouri, but briefly, positively and 
unconditionally, in a few dignified and respect- 
ful words, he declined the high honor which 
sought him. Eugene's mother died when he was 
only six years old and he was then sent to Am- 
herst, Massachusetts, to be reared and educated 
under the tender care of his cousin — his father's 
niece — Miss French. To the gentle training of this 
estimable lady may be traced many charming 
traits of our poet's character, and all of the social 
accomplishments for which he is admired by those 
of his circle of personal friends, and gratefully and 
fondly does he remember the guide-star of his 



\ M»LL1B-£5P| 


Huntly, the city editor, in the 

disguise of a "saw-bones" 



"By Miss French's direction young Field was 
placed under the tutelage of the Rev. James Tufts, 
of Monson, Mass., to prepare for college, and at 
the age of seventeen was admitted to Williams 
College. The death of his father, shortly after his 
college career began, caused the severance of his 
Eastern scholastic connections. Prof. John W. 
Burgess, then professor of English literature in 
Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, and afterwards 
professor of Latin in Columbia College Law 
School was appointed his guardian and thereupon 
he was taken from the East and entered at Knox 
College, where he remained two years, afterwards 
completing his education at the University of Mis- 

"In 1871, being of age, Field visited Europe, and 
spent six months in roaming over England, France 
and Italy. There he first became acquainted with 
the remains of the races and lands of the ancient 
masters of epic and lyric verse, which had 
inspired his early years. Much, in fact, of the fine 
method which is apparent in all of his work may 
be attributed to his travel and observation in 
Europe, as it gave him the true measure, in reality, 
of the studies of his youth. 

"In 1873 Field began newspaper work as a 
reporter on the press of St. Louis, and it was about 
this time that the writer hereof became acquainted 
with him and at once became his warm admirer 
and acquired the distinguished honor and pleasure 
of his friendship and esteem. Rapidly Field arose 
in journalism, occupying many high places on the 
newspapers of his native city and of St. Joseph and 
Kansas City, in the same state, until he had won a 
fame as a wit, poet and journalist which was 
valuable professionally, and everywhere he quickly 
gathered around him a circle of friends who 
delighted in his society, he being not only bril- 
liant with the pen, but debonair of manner and 
possessed of rare gifts in music, story-telling and 


"In 1880, Field's services were sought by the 
bright and breezy Tribune of Denver, and he 
brought to it as managing editor a refreshing at- 
mosphere of humor, satire, poesy and pathos, 
which combined with Ottomar Rothacker's classic 
or pungent work, and purity and force of dic- 
tion, and strength and brilliancy of thought, gave 
for a time to the people of Colorado, and the pub- 
lic generally a joy in journalism. 

"While with the Tribune Field won his greatest 
popular fame as the author of a series of humorous 
bits called the 'Tribune Primmer,' some samples 
of which will be given herewith, when these 
papers have been compiled. 

"Although Eugene Field has won fame as a par- 
agrapher and humorist in prose, he has become 
more widely known throughout the United States 
and England as a poet, and it is in this vein that 
his best efforts have found circulation. A thor- 
ough master of all the intricacies of the human 
heart, he has applied himself to the delineation of 
the better qualities of the objects aimed at, with- 
out seeking, as many do, who have the same 
power to expose the corruptions thereoi. Through 
all his poetic effusions, there is the same indelible 
stamp of genuine manhood which made Burns the 
object of interest and love, and which will ever 
live in the memory of his countrymen, the lack of 
which will always cause Byron to be looked upon, 
by future generations, as a misanthrope and cynic. 

"To compare Eugene Field to any of his living 
contemporaries would be a waste of time. He 
stands alone and on a tower built by his own 

" His eccentric verse first attracted the attention 
of the reading public in 1877, when he published 
his poem on the marriage of the Marquis of Lome 
to the daughter of the royal Victoria. Although 
much weaker than those which followed, it is 
appended as the first bud of his poetic genius: 


"With tragic air the lovelorn heir 
Once chased the chaste Louise; 
She quickly guessed her guest was there 
To please her with his pleas. 

Now at her side he kneeling sighed 

His sighs of woful size; 
'Oh! hear me here, for low, most low 
I rise before your eyes. 

"This soul is sole thine own, Louise — 

'Twill never wean, I ween 
The love that I for aye shall feel, 
Tho' mean may be its mien! 

'You know I cannot tell you no,' 

The maid made answer true, — 
'To love you aught, as sure I ought — 

To you 'tis due I do!' 

'Since you are won, O, fairest one, 

The marriage rite is right — 
The chapel aisle I'll lead you up 

This night,' exclaimed the knight." 

'Of his lyric poetry one specimen is given here- 
with which is full of tender beauty and charming 
pathos as well as rythmic excellence: 


I count my treasures o'er with care 
The little toy that baby knew, 
The little sock of faded hue, 

The little lock of golden hair. 

Long years ago this Christmas time, 
My little one — my all to me — 
Sat robed in white upon my knee 

And heard the merry Christinas chime. 


"Tell me, my little golden head, 

If Santa Claus should come to-night 
What shall he leave my baby bright, 

What treasure for my boy?" I said. 

And then he named the little toy 

While in his round and mournful eyes 
There came a look of glad surprise 

That spoke his trustful, quiet joy. 

And as he lisped his evening pray'r, 
He asked the boon with childish grace, 
And toddled to the chimney place 

And hung his little stocking there. 

That night as length 'ning shadows crept, 
I saw the white-winged angels come 
With heavenly music to our home 

And kiss my darling as he slept. 

They must have heard his baby pray'r, 
For in the morn with anxious face 
He toddled to the chimney place 

And found his little treasure there. 

They came again one Christmas tide, 
That angel host, so fair and white, 
And, singing all the Christmas night 

They lured my darling from my side. 

A little sock — a little toy — 
A little lock of golden hair — 
The Christmas music on the air — 

A watching for my baby-boy. 

And if again that angel train 
And goldenhead come back to me, 
To bear me to eternity, 

My watching will not be in vain. 


When Field returned to St. Louis in 1872, and 
bent upon matrimony, he felt like doing some- 
thing to brace up his fortune, so went to work on 
the Evening Journal at the princely salary of $10 
per week — or month — Field is not very certain 
which, and really it was a matter of no particular 
importance, seeing that he never got it, and at the 
same time he was spending more money every 
day than the Journal's income amounted to, at a 
rough guess. Nevertheless, in 1873 he was mar- 
ried to a young lady of St. Joseph, Mo., Miss Julia 
Comstock, and kept on his work as a Journal re- 
porter. At this time Stanley "Waterloo was editor 
of the Journal. Stanley Huntley, late "Spoopen- 
dyke" of the Brooklyn Eagle, was the city editor. 
Rose Field, Eugene's brother, now of the Chicago 
Post, was dramatic critic. Tom Meek, and Ash 
Cohen — who wrote the song "Bird of the Angel 
Wing," — were reporters. It was a splendid staff, 
but somehow the management hadn't "caught on" 
up to that time, and "the ghost failed to walk" on 
pay days with anything like a thorough-going 
stride. There was no' lack of enterprise either 
among the staff, for it was during this time that 
the question arose as to where a certain medical 
college in St. Louis got its subjects for dissection, 
and in order to fasten the thing properly on the 
students, Huntley, the city editor, in disguise of a 
"sawbones" apprentice, made a contract with a 
suspected body-snatcher for a subject, and the 
body was duly delivered that night at the back 
entrance of the college, and the police officers, who 
witnessed the entire performance, were placed in 
proper position to ferret the matter clean through, 
and the Journal had a big sensation withal. 

In those times on the Journal when the re- 
mainder of the staff wept and wailed because cash 
was not, Field felt that life was too short to fool 
around the counting room, and he would go home 
whistling, sometimes after having loaned Cohen 
or Meek money enough to see them over Sunday. 
Besides his tender heart couldn't bear the anguish 




> *3E 




Field's Hole in the Wall 


of the proprietors, whose resources seemed to be 
circumscribed to such a narrow limit that an ordi- 
nary pair of compasses could have drawn a circle 
around them. 

Early in 1875 Eugene Field accepted a position 
as reporter on the St. Joseph Gazette, and in 
about two weeks was made city editor. He 
worked there somewhat more than a year and his 
brilliant coruscations began to attract general 

On the evening of the first of January, 1876, the 
printers, editors and pressmen — in fact all per- 
sons in St. Joe intimately or remotely connected 
with the "art preservative," — met at Joe Wehrle's 
establishment and sat down to an elegant banquet. 
Capt. Prank Posegate, afterward postmaster and 
later Mayor of St. Joseph, who was a pioneer 
printer of St. Joseph, and one of the original own- 
ers of the Herald, presided, and read a paper giving 
a history of newspaperdom in that city up to that 
date. There were, besides, songs, toasts, speeches, 
an original and very funny poem entitled "Slug 14," 
by Field, and a world of pure enjoyment and solid 
comfort in which this writer participated. 

In person — face, form and bearing — Eugene Field, 
in repose, did not indicate his many-sided traits, 
attainments and accomplishments. His general 
appearance was what may be termed clerical. 
He had a homely face, pleasing in its intel- 
ligence and he was tall, straight and beardless. 
His geniality was perennial and contagious, and 
he was always the life of any convivial party into 
which he was thrown, if the party was a con- 
genial one. He had a wondrous deep bass voice, 
and, being a natural actor, would have made a suc- 
cess on the lyric stage, especially in buffo parts, in 
which he would have been greatly assisted by 
his remarkable sense of the ludicrous and his fond- 
ness for burlesque and ridicule. 

Outside of his work-room in the newspaper 
building, Field was scrupulously neat and conven- 
tionally well dressed. In his work-room he was 


just the reverse. For years he wore at his work 
the zebra suit of a prison convict. When not thus 
garbed he worked in his "shirt-sleeves" or a 
woolly "wampus," suspenders down and feet in 
some manner slip-shod. 

Field was the most incessant and insistent 
practical joker that biography has ever mentioned. 
Funny pranks were a jolly mania with him and of 
those he perpetrated in his lifetime a huge volume 
might be written, even though each were tersely 
told. While some of those tricks were hilariously 
cruel — so to speak — they were never physically 
painful or in any manner unforgivable. His bot- 
tomless chair was perhaps the instrument of that 
one which more palpably than any other was 
calculated to crush the dignity of a victim. This 
chair was for several months the leading feature 
of Field's room in the Denver Tribune building. 
Bill Nye sat in this chair once — and "in" is the 
word. Nye does not mention his personal experi- 
ence in this chair that by children of a century 
ago was called a "rush-bottom," because the bot- 
tom had rushed out, but he alluded to it once and 
his "Remarks" in that connection convey a clear 
description of the affair — noun and verb. He says: 
"As the 'Nonpariel Writer' of the Denver 
Tribune, it was a mystery to me when he did the 
work which the paper showed each day as his own. 
You would sometimes find him at his desk writ- 
ing on large sheets of 'print paper' with a pen and 
violet ink, in a hand that was as delicate as the 
steel plate of a bank note and the kind of work 
that printers would skirmish for. He would ask 
you to sit down in the chair opposite his desk, 
which had two or three old exchanges thrown on 
it. He would probably say, 'Never mind those 
papers. I've read them. Just sit down on them if 
you want to.' 

"Encouraged by his hearty manner, you would 
sit down until you had protruded about three- 
fourths of your system through that hollow mock- 
ery of a chair. Then he would run to help you out 


and curse the chair, and feel pained because he 
had erroneously given you the ruin with no seat to 
it, He always felt pained over such things. He 
always suffered and felt shocked over the accident 
until you had gone away, and then he would sigh 
heavily and 'set' the chair again." 

The day before Oscar Wilde was to arrive in 
Denver, Field, made up to personate the poet, and 
arrayed in the laces, lilies and other aesthetics 
affected by that more or less distinguished and 
extinguished bard, accompanied by Ottomar 
Rothacker, the brilliant editor of the Tribune, and 
F. J. V. Skiff, business manager of the newspaper, 
in a splendid carriage, rode about the streets of 
Denver, attracting much attention. The populace 
supposed that the real Wilde, who was to lecture 
at the Tabor Grand on the next evening, but one, 
was on view. When the "Dainty Bunthorne" 
arrived the next day, he was astonished to learn 
of the sensation he had created the day before. 
When the performance was explained to him in the 
light of a joke he accepted it as "Quite a valuable 
advertisement for my lecture, doncher knaw." 
Field, for once, felt the recalcitrance of a joke 
boomerang. Wilde's obtuseness as to humor be- 
came the unwitting rebuke of the joke and the 

When Eugene Field lived in Denver he went 
frequently in summertime ■ to a pond in the 
suburbs to swim. On one of these occasions a 
newsboy who was engaged in the same sport was 
about to drown, when Field, who was not an expert 
swimmer, went to the lad's assistance and saved 
his life at the imminent risk of his own. In fact, 
Field was pulled out of the place by other men 
who happened to get to him in time, and much 
patience and skill were required to resuscitate the 

As it was, Field was quite ill for several days 
afterward, and unable to work. When he got back 
to the office the boy whose life had been saved 





came to see his rescuer. The boy proved to be 
such an insolent and tough little wretch that talk- 
ing to him made Field stammer more than usual, 
but he managed to say: 

"L-l-look here, you little scamp. D-d-don't you 
ever t-t-tell anybody that I s-s-saved your life. 
I've g-g-got sins enough to answer for without 

Shortly after Field came to Chicago to live, he 
took Paul Hull home with him to his Christmas 
dinner. At the table Hull was seated, by Field's 
direction, between two very young Messrs. Field. 
Eugene himself sat opposite this trio, the. other 
members of the family in their accustomed places. 

Before the dinner began Field addressed the 
youngsters with severe seriousness. 

"This man Hull," he said, "has come here, unin- 
vited, to eat up your Christmas turkey, which has 
cost me a great deal of money, and your mother 
much trouble to have it nicely prepared." 

The youngsters looked daggers at Hull. 

Continuing, Field said: "Of course, now that he 
is here, it would not be exactly the right thing to 
turn him out." 

The Field boys exhibited a shade of compassion. 

"But in order to make him pav for his dinner, 
vou are to insist upon bis serving you, and you are 
not to bother me, that's all." 

The kids grabbed Hull bv both arms. They 
wanted everything in sight, and they wanted it in 
a hurry. 

Hull piled their plates, and they handled his 
Sunday clothes with ungloved Christmas fingers. 

After it was all over Field said: 

'THiull, I wish you would go into the bath-room 
and wash yourself. I'm expecting company this 
evening, and seeing that you are about my size, 
you will do me the kindness to put on a suit of my 
clothes that you will find there. Some of the folks 
ccming are just a mite fastidious." 


The things that Hull said will not be recorded 
until asbestos has been adapted to writing and 
printing purposes. 

To his own children, when they were little tots, 
either by heredity or contagion, befel his own gro- 
tesque manner of humorous things. This is illus- 
trated by the following incident: The children 
were the owners, possessors and frequent associ- 
ates of a goat that was more odorous, and less 
pleasantly so than "Araby the Blest." In their 
tumblings and other hilarious capers with this 
fragrant beast they would become saturated with 
that balm at which the olfactories of others about 
the Field domicile would rebel, when the young- 
sters came in from a frolic with "His Capricine 
Majesty." That this became monotonous to the 
elders is putting it modestly. Discussions as to 
the manner in which the goat was to be disposed of 
caused distress and lamentation among the "kids" 
untli one day a friend who was dining with the 
family, urged thereto by palpable though invisible 
signs in the air, asked the privilege of sending to 
the children a bottle of some other fragrant extract 
with which by applying to themselves, at toilet, 
after contact with the goat, might neutralize the 
other forceful odor. This worked well for a 
space but the detail became tco onerous and after 
due consultation it was decided that if a little per- 
fume would dispel the goat smell from each of 
them then the whole bottle applied to the goat 
would entirely and for all time destroy the mal- 
scent at its source. The big bottle was utilized as 
indicated, but the fluid seemed to simply be, thus 
used, a long-lost, or else never-before-discovered, 
agent for emphasizing the odor of a goat, and the 
last condition became worse than the first. The 
odor became so intensified that the only way to 
fumigate the situation that presented itself satis- 
factorily was to banish the goat to Shanty-town, 
and thus the problem was solved. 

Field had a way of saying things, in reproof or 
reprehension, that was effective though quaint and 


apparently innocent. Once he remarked, under 
sufficient provocation: "I never use tobacco, but T 
am passionately fond of cigarettes." Truth was he 
had a horror of cigarettes, though he chewed 
tobacco and smoked cigars with great vigor. 

Field died at his home, the Sabine Farm, in 
Buena Park, Chicago, on the early morning of 
November 4, 1895. 

No man's death ever so much disturbed all the 
mighty city and the funeral of the poet-journalist 
was one of the most imposing that ever occurred 
in the city named. 

About that time, this writer was requested by 
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, to write 
something of Eugene Field, and that article is 
given herewith as a heartfelt but meagre estimate 
of the man and his work: 

"In a mighty maelstrom of people and busi- 
ness, such as characterizes Chicago, when the 
death of a man, and that man almost a recluse — 
as to person — disturbs the monstrous whirl, then 
he must be a man of mark. This occurred when 
Eugene Field died. 

"Field was, in many respects, a remarkably 
contradictory character. He was a great, over- 
grown boy, and he was a strong and dignified 
man; he wrote lullabies and toyish things in 
verse, and he wrote abstruse and scholarly things 
in prose. He also wrote classic poetry and flip- 
pant paragraphs. 

"Because of his songs for and about children, 
it is generally understood that he was exceed- 
ingly fond of the little ones. Yet there are those 
who were familiar with him who say he was not 
a lover of children, except his own, and that he 
wrote children's poetry for grown folks to read. 
Let that be as it may, he caught the children just 
the same, and they worshipped him from near and 

"Besides, if one with such genius as his desires 
to write for children there is inspiration enough 
in his own. Through them he can see them all. 


"Field was born to the purple, but he threw 
away his patrimony in bohemianism at the out- 
set. He went to Europe but not alone. He took 
with him a congenial friend who was not so for- 
tunately endowed with ducats, and he paid, im- 
partially, the expenses of both. Then he came 
back and hitched himself to the car of journalism, 
-^h trod that tramway at a vigorous step. 

"It was in the between times that Field did his 
things for the world of letters that won him a 
begrudged fame, as well as the necessities and 
many of the luxuries of life. 

"Eugene Field's forty-sixth year and his death 
would have found him further advanced, and more 
easily, withal, had he lived more of the years, 
when making his fame, nearer to the centres of 
culture and publication, and especially in Chicago, 
where he was honored in his life and in his ashes. 

"Nevertheless it came to be seen, when he was 
dead, that he had a world of admirers. "Wealth 
crowded about his bier and whelmed it with 
bloom. His humbler friends did all they could to 
show their love, and with tear-bathed eyes they 
looked into his dead face, and with trembling lips 
said, whispering, 'Good-bye.' 

"His eulogists said he was the friend of all 
mankind; but those who knew Eugene Field best 
knew also that he had no sort of patience with the 
faithless, the hypocrite, the beater of dumb 
animals, the pretender of any kind; the inherent 
wrongdoer; and, pity 'tis true, a large portion of 
humanity — or inhumanity — are these. 

"The taking-off of this man was untimely, for 
he had much yet to do. 

"Besides, it was a poignant and deep grief to 
those who loved him, and whom he loved. But 
the shock was relieved by the sweetness of his 
death, for he wrapped the drapery of his couch 
about him and lay down to pleasant dreams. He 
awoke to walk the God-lit hills of Eternity. 



"He will meet kindred souls in Elysium, and 
will hold sweet converse with them. He will meet 
the Davids who sang, the Joshuas who fought, and 
all the great ones who wrote. For surely such 
souls do not die. 

"Those things that make the souls of great men, 
in love, and thought, and song, are of the Entity 
of the Eternal." 

Field's rush bottom chair. 

EDGAR WILSON NYE (in Laramie). 


Sam Smith, almost illiterate, having no educa- 
tion further than the rudiments obtained in two 
or three winter sessions, in a log school house, 
in the woods, was born a genius, a poet and 
dramatist. He wrote the play "Struck Oil," from 
which the Williamsons — man and wife — earned 
a great fortune in the latter 1860s and early '70s 
and which they took on a tour of the world. He 
wrote many other highly successful melodramas, 
and died, a hermit in the Nisqually forests of 
Western Oregon, in 1895. 

This man Smith had written a play that he 
called "The Plains" and under proper management 
it would have been a hilarious success, but the 
sombre manager who got hold of it renamed it 
"California Through Death Valley." That name 
was more than it could stand, added to the expense 
of taking it about. 

While comedian of this "Death Valley" company 
I played "three nights and a matinee" in Laramie 
City, Wyoming, in the summer of 1880 and it was 
during this engagement that I became personally 
acquainted with Edgar Wilson Nye, known to fame 
as "Bill Nye." He told me once that his middle 
name was Willis, but other people, and the bio- 
graphical dictionary insist that his middle name was 
Wilson, so it will have to go at that. He became 
famous before leaving Laramie as the editor of the 
"Boomerang," but he had no boomerang at the 
time of which I write, except an imaginary and 
very stubborn mule of that name. He took me to 
the military post near by — Fort Saunders — and we 
had a long range shooting contest with some of the 
crack shots of the command, among them a lieu- 
tenant of cavalry who was so hospitable and gra- 
cious as to allow us to defeat him. Under Nye's 
guidance I saw a great deal of Laramie, and there 


was much of it, notwithstanding it was a very- 
small town, then. 

Among the "resorts" to which Nye led was a 
place where a promoter of timely frontier enter- 
tainments kept all sorts of sporting arrangements. 
He had a cockpit for fighting roosters in, and a 
ring for boxers to practice on each other, billiard 
tables, ten pin alleys and other accommodations. 
While we were there a man came in with a live 
eagle that he proposed to pit against the proprie- 
tor's best bird. The old sport took him up at once 
and the Roman-nosed bird of freedom was thrown 
in with a healthy looking chicken that would have 
fought a buzz-saw. The rooster made a dab at the 
eagle, and that "fierce gray bird with a bending 
beak" and an unwarranted reputation for game- 
ness, ignominiously, ingloriously and incontinently 
fled and hid under a chair, where he looked out in 
a piteous sort of way and as good as said "Take 
him off; I want to go home!" 

Among the other things this man of sport had 
was a badger that he was prepared to back for 
large sums on the statement that no dog of 
anybody's could take the beast out of a barrel 
that lay lengthwise on the floor, with one head 
knocked out and in which the badger was en- 
sconsed. I had wondered why it was that Nye had 
been coaxing an "onary" looking cur to follow us. 

Now the problem was about to be solved. Nye 
made a bet that he had a dog that would take the 
badger out of the barrel. The money was "put 
up" and Nye caught that dog by the "nap of his 
neck and seat of his breeches," — so to speak, — and 
threw him into the barrel, tail foremost. The 
badger nabbed the dog by one ham and the dog 
went right away from there like a blue streak, 
taking the badger with him. The last that was 
ever seen of that dog, or badger either, both were 
going towards the North Platte River, the dog 
making the best time he had ever made and the 
badger hanging straight out behind, a close second. 
Nye won. 

AND 80 M E MORE 89 

Nye introduced me to one of the cattle kings of 
that country, who invited us into a neighboring 
"joint" to get a cigar. This cattle king was called 
major, and he was one of those persons who will 
get to telling something and wander all over the 
lace of the eartn, talking about all there is on its 
surface, or in the waters beneatn or the heavens 
above, and forget what they are talking about at 
tne outset. The major began one of those stories. 
Said he: 

"We started from Sherman on one of the hottest 
days I think I ever saw. It gets as hot down in 
Texas as any place except Yuma, Arizona. You 
may have heard how hot it gets in Yuma — well, 
an amusing thing happened tnat day. We had 
among the cowboys an old Mexican. These cow- 
boys are cowboys after they are eighty and ninety 
years old. I saw a cowboy in California once who 
was a hundred if he was a day. it's astonishing 
how old these greasers get to be. I have traveled 
a great deal in Mexico, and it don't occur to me, 
just now where I ever saw a graveyard. Tnere's 
the Tombstone district in Arizona, and I know 
there isn't a tomb-stone in it. The people just dry 
up and blow away, and maybe you think it don't 
blow down there sometimes, but nothing like I 
have seen it in Missouri. I saw a tornado once 
tbat blew a baby over into Iowa, and the people 
didn't know where the baby came from or who it 
belonged to, but they raised it and he is voting the 
republican ticket to this day; and it ain't naif 
fair on Missouri, for the chances are that the baby 
was born a Democrat. By the way, that just re- 
minds me, do any of you know how the vote stood 
between — " 

At this juncture a cowboy came in and told the 
major that he had been waiting for him long 
enough. The major "treated" and went away, and 
left that old Mexican cowboy down there, swelter- 
ing in the saddle under the blazing sun of Texas. 

Nye was honored by the people of Laramie fre- 
quently in their choice of him for police justice. 
Of that experience he wrote: 


"It was really pathetic to see the poor little 
miserable booth where I sat and waited with numb 
fingers for business. But I did not see the pathos 
which clung to every cobweb and darkened the 
rattling casement. Possibly I did not know 
enough. I forgot to say the office was not a 
salaried one, but solely dependent upon fees. So 
while I was called Judge Nye, and frequently men- 
tioned in the papers with consideration, I was out 
of coal half the time and once could not mail 
my letters for three weeks because I did not have 
the necessary postage." 

The first time he was elected to that place Nye 
went to a boot and shoe dealer whose name was 
Kidd, and asked him to go on his official bond to 
the extent of $200. It was a small sum, but Kidd 
•was a small man. Nye had been a valuable cus- 
tomer to Kidd. He bought all of his shoes from 
him and that is saying a great deal; for it took a 
large quantity of shoes to do Nye through the 
year, or even through a minute, for it took a large 

.entity of shoe to fit Nye. 

Kidd rubbed his hands and said that no tiling 
would give him more pleasure than to go on Judge 
Nye's bond, but he had promised his dear, dead 
mother on her dying bed, that he'd never go on 
anybody's bond. He started out to be profuse in 
his regrets that circumstances precluded this little 
office of neighborly kindness, but Nye checked him 
and said that if there was a man on earth whom 
he admired and was especially and particularly 
proud to call "friend," it was a man who respected 
the wishes of his mother, particularly his dear, 
dead mother, even in the matter of going on some- 
body's bond. With a warm grasp of the hand, a 
tear of kindly good feeling in his eye, and a heart 
full of joy that on that day he had met such a 
good man, Judge Nye went away and found some 
one else to go on his bond who hadn't made any 
maternal promises of that character. 

And the court was herself again. 


One beautiful winter day some weeks afterward, 
when the mercury was at a point of many icy 
degrees below zero, Judge Nye was sitting on a 
case — that is, he was sitting close by it — when a 
paper came up in the suit on which Kidd's name 
appeared as surety for somebody. 

The court took a recess. 

Judge Nye, with a cold face and his arctic shoes 
on, marched straight through that winter's day to 
Kidd's store and called for his bill. There was a 
look of sadness in his eye, mingled with contempt, 
that made Mr. Kidd uneasy. Kidd suggested to 
the Judge that there need be no hurry about the 
bill; he would send it over some other time, but 
Judge Nye was persistent. Kindly, but firmly, he 
insisted on seeing his bill and when it came it was 
not near as big as usual. That made Nye more 
determined. He dug up its equivalent in eloquent 
silver dollars. Mr. Kidd remonstrated and pro- 
tested. He didn't need money just then. Any 
other time would do just as well. He saw dark 
foreboding in Nye's face. He looked at his good 
customer's capacious feet and almost wept at the 
thought of losing the contract to cover them in, 
and there is wealth in big contracts. But Judge 
Nye made him take the money. Kidd expostulated 
and offered all sorts of apologies and explanations, 
but Nye's obduracy could not be moved. 

"I do not resent, Mr. Kidd, that you refused to 
go on my official bond," Nye said, "There are num- 
erous banks and other institutions of high finance 
in this republic that are simply yearning to go my 
security, but you have given me a painful shock. 
You have deceived me, and when a man goes back 
on his poor, dead mother, as you have done in this 
affair, that is where I draw the line. Adieu, false 
one, adieu." And thus he left the abject presence 
of the humiliated shoeman. Nye's heart strings 
were pulled as taught as the E string of a profes- 
sional violin. He was sad, but as he passed Con- 
nors — or rather as he didn't pass Connor's — he 
chased away the sorrow that had fallen like a 
shadow athwart his life. 



"When a man goes "back on his poor, dead mother, 
there is where I draw the line." 


Many times after that memorable day, did the 
calculating Kidd attempt to reach across the 
bloody sarcasm that separated him from Judge 
Nye and Judge Nye's custom, but all in vain, for 
with sad and dignified resolve the judge waved 
back the soulless shoemaker to the very last. Nye 
was right, and Kidd was left. 

Bill Nye was born August 25, 1850, in Shirley, 
Piscataquis County, Maine, not far from where an- 
other great American humorist, Shaw — "Josh 
Billings" — was born. He was not of kin to Senator 
Nye of Nevada, and was in no manner associated 
with the Nye made. famous in Bret Harte's poem, 
"The Heathen Chinee." 

Nye had said himself, that at the tender age of 
two years he gently, but firmly took his parents 
by the hand and led them away to the St. Croix 
region of Wisconsin, where they might get on more 
satisfactorily for all concerned. 

As a boy Bill Nye had plenty of hard work and 
very little schooling — though he attained in after 
years much scholarship through diligent and sys- 
tematic reading. When he was about seventeen 
Nye was taken as a student by a country lawyer in 
whose office running errands and sweeping out 
formed the greater part of the curriculum. In 
idle moments he read law, having access to what, 
the lawyer was pleased to term his library. Of 
this reading Nye has said: 

"I could read the same passage today that I did 
yesterday and it would seem as fresh at the second 
reading as it did at first. On the following day I 
could read it again and it would seem as new and 
mysterious as it did on the preceding day." 

At the age of twenty-five, Nye taught school for 
a short time in Polk County, Wisconsin, and then 
he went to Wyoming, taking with him little else 
than the suit of clothes he wore, a heart as big as 
charity itself, a strong energy, a pair of arctic over- 
shoes, some cousfh balsam, a head full of good 
sense and a soul full of the most inimitable humor. 
He also had a trunk that he rode out on. He did 


not sit straddle of the trunk on the trip but for 
a part of the way he gave the conductor the check 
for the trunk and at Cheyenne a friend redeemed 
that, releasing Nye, thereby, and his alleged ward- 

At Laramie Nye tried practicing law, but soon 
found that he was not getting anywhere near rich 
enough. And yet Nye was not one of those persons 
who desire the entire earth with a wire fence 
around it. There were conditions in that region 
at that time, that militated against great success, 
in an individual way, in the practice of law. 
Nearly every man was his own lawyer, in a way. 
Thus there were too many lawyers. 

A young and asoiring attorney would not much 
more than get a client into his office, and besrin to 
tell him all about the merits of his case before a 
great mob of lawyers would come in with masks 
on and take the client and the law into their own 
hands and suspend the case and the client and 
leave the young attorney feeless. Such things 
made it necessary for Nye to do something else, 
or live on air, and the air in that region is so 
thin and rarified that it is altogether too light 
for a constant diet for a healthy man, and Nye was 
a healthy man then; so he took to writing for the 
Sentinel. He was with that affair about a year 
and the positinrt was not much better than prac- 
ticing law, even '.rider the untoward circumstances 
suggested. The Sentinel was a morning paper 
which was printed the evening previous, and Doc 
Hayford, a grim old man, who had a mania for 
babies, was the editor and proprietor. Nye has 
said about his former employer: "I don't know 
whether he got into the penitentiary or the Green- 
back party. All I know about it is that he was 
sentenced to a life of solitary confinement. The 
boys used to call him Deacon Hayford, to be sar- 
castic; he was the wickedest man in Wyoming. 
Still he was warm-hearted and generous to a 
fault. He was more generous to a fault than he 
ever was to anybody else. Especially his own 


"He gave me $12 a week to edit the paper — 
local, telegraph, selections, religious, sporting, 
fashion, political and obituary. He said $12 was 
too much, but if I would jerk the hand-press occa- 
sionally and take care of his children, he would 
try and stand it. Perhaps I might have been 
there yet if I hadn't had a red-hot political cam- 
paign and measles among the children at the same 
time. You can't mix measles and politics. So I 
said one day that I would have to draw the line 
at measles. 

"I drew my princely salary and quit, having ac- 
quired a style of fearless and independent jour- 
nalism which I still retain. I can write up things 
that never occurred with a masterly and graphic 
hand. Then if they ever occur afterward, I am 
rrateful: if not, I bow to the inevitable and smoth- 
er my chagrin." 

After leaving the Sentinel, Nve was elected 
Police Justice of Laramie City, and then, as United 
States Commissioner, notary nublic, postmaster, 
snnerintendent of schools, member of the city coun- 
cil, and one thing or another, he got along very 

Bill Root, a jolly good fellow, and the wag of the 
town, was his first inspiration. He told Nye that 
he was the worst start for a lawyer that he had 
ever seen, but thought he would make a great 
humorist. Root would tell him coyote, cayuse. 
cowboy, cattle and canine stories and Nye would 
write them in his own inimitable vein. O. H. 
Rothacker, then the editor of the Denver Tribune, 
saw some of Nye's bright things and invited him 
to write for the Tribune. This Nye did, and quick- 
ly there came a demand for his matter from many 
sources and in a little while he was famous. He 
published a compilation of his humor in book 
shape and called it "Bill Nye and Boomerang," 
and shortly afterward raised a stock company and 
beean the publication of his daily paper, "The 
Boomerang;." He was making that a remarkable 
success when he was seized with Cerebro spinal 
Meningitis and wase forced to quit work. 

96 TEN WI 8 E M EN 

After the "Death Valley" dramatic company col- 
lapsed at Denver, which natural event occured 
shortly after the incidents related at the beginning 
of this chapter, I went to work on a Denver news- 
paper and in a few months afterward was engaged 
as "the staff" of a daily newspaper in Cheyenne. 
Nye was now running the "Boomerang" some, and 
it was running him some. Being neighbors, so to 
speak, in that land of magnificent distances, we 
often exchanged visits, for we had become devoted 

Nye's editorial room was second floor front over 
a livery stable, a fact that caused him to live in 
mortal dread of hay fever. He had a sign at the 
foot of the stairway advising those who chose to 
come up more suddenly, to "Twist the tail of the 
mule and take the elevator." 

Once when I was visiting him, after he had 
made this stable venture, he said, as soon as the 
salutations had been made: 

"Pitch in there, now, and write something to 
help me out and we will go and have some fun." 

"What shall I write about," he was asked. 

"Oh write about a column," he replied. 

So, I wrote about a column, gave it the head- 
ing, "About A Column," and commented puon col- 
umns. Soon we were out and Nye led the way to 
the joys of the town. 

One of Nye's funniest peculiarities was his 
solemnity of look and sepulchral voice when he 
was saying something that he knew to be unusual- 
ly humorous. At such times he had a queer sort 
of cross-eyed glint leftward. 

A few steps from the door, on the occasion men- 
tioned we met a man who stopped Nye to tell him 
something about a citizen who had been thrashing 
the wife of his bosom. Nye made a memorandum, 
and as we walked along he said, in that sepulchral 
voice and with that cross-eyed glint: 

"That ain't right. It ain't right for a man to 
lick his wife, like that. They are not doing that 
now in the best circles." 


Nye would say things of this kind with an air 
of so much earnestness that persons unacquainted 
with his ways wauld look surprised — sometimes 
injured — not understanding that he was simply 
being facetious. Thus his humor was not always 
fully apreciated by audiences when he "lectured." 
For instance: Telling of his tribulations while 
travelling when he was young, he said, in an ex- 
planatory way: "Born as I was, in a private fam- 
ily," there were those who looked at him in a man- 
ner as if to say: "Well where else did the blame 
fool expect to be born?" Telling something con- 
cerning the old-time fashion of New Year calls, 
when at almost every house stimulating drinks 
were served to visitors, Nye said: "On last New 
Year's Day I made a large number of calls — I am 
told." The critics mentioned felt, doubtless, like 
saying to him: "Don't you know — you blessed 
idiot — about how many calls you made?" 

Visiting me once in Denver, we sat talking of 
matters in general, when my little six-year-old 
daughter, teasing for some trinket, at last threw 
her chubby arms around my neck and pleaded, 
"You will, papa! won't you, pretty papa?" Nye 
looked at her with a deep, sad sigh, and then, in 
a voice of sepulchral warning, said, "Young man, 
you ought to do something to break your child 
of that tendency. She seems to be inclined to be 
a humorist." I see the force of his joke every time 
I look in a mirror, and my portraits emphasize it 
to strangers. 

Once, while standing with a friend at a prom- 
inent point on top of Lookout Mountain, a young 
guide told them that from this point of view they 
could see seven states, viz: Tennessee, Virginia, 
Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia 
and Alabama. 

"Where's North Carolina?" Nye inquired. 

The man pointed to a particular place in the 
purple horizon. 

"What makes you think that is North Caro- 
lina?" Nye asked. 


Bill Nye. 

Will Visscher. Eugene Field. 

An Old Time Picture 

Leon Mead. 


"Oh, we know by the direction and the conforma- 
tion of the mountains there," the man replied. 

"Well, I know that is not North Carolina," Nye 
declared, with some vehemence. "And you would 
know it too, if you stopped to think. Here is a 
map of the United States," — taking out a pocket 
map — "and you can see that North Carolina is 
pink. I live in that state considerably, and I've 
helped to paint it red, but of course I go away 
sometimes, and then it fades a little, leaving it 
pink. No, sir, you can't stuff me that way. The 
place you are pointing at, a color-blind man could 
see, is purple." 

Nye said those things so seriously that the man 
was almost dazed. He gave Nye a puzzled look 
and then went on pointing out other sisters in the 
late confederacy. 

Shortly after that and but a few weeks previous 
to his death, which sad event occurred February 
22nd, 1896, at Asheville, North Carolina, he wrote 
me at Montgomery, Alabama, saying, among other 
things: "I have on my farm here a very promis- 
ing field of young rye that looks as if it might run 
about nine gallons to the acre. Come down or 
come up, as the case may be." 

After meningitis had driven Nye from the great 
altitude of Laramie to a short sojourn at Greeley, 
Colorado, in 1883, after having lost the Boomerang, 
that has acted toward him like "the strange mis- 
sile the Australian throws," he went to Wiscon- 
sin and bought a home at Hudson, in the region 
where he had been brought up. Here he did much 
of his best work, for a few years, and that even- 
tuated in his being called to New York City to 
do exclusive writing for the Daily World, at a 
princely salary. Much of this work was syndicat- 
ed, however, and from the World it went to the 
world. While here he prchased a beautiful home 
on Staten Island. With the writing indicated, and 
his lecture tours, for the most part with James 
Whitcomb Riley, the poet, he won international 
fame and fair fortune. During his residence at 


Hudson and before he met Riley, Nye had made 
arrangements with this writer for a lecture tour, 
but the threatening of a relapse of the spinal 
trouble caused a cancellation of the dates and 
when he recovered he and Mr. Riley joined forces 
and started out together from New York under 
the management of Major Pond of that city. How- 
ever, I made a tour with Nye shortly after he and 
Riley separated. 

Pending the time when the physicians had in- 
hibited Nye from much travel I visited him at 
Hudson, previous to which there had been some 
correspondence of which the following letter is a 

P. 0. Box 406. 
Hudson, Wis., Jan. 31, 1884. 
Dear Vissch: 

Your very cheering and highly funny account 
of your celebration of the birth of a Dutch Baby 
in a foreign tongue, was just received. You ought 
to have handed that letter to the printer and done 
some universal good with it. 

By the way I ran across that lobster yarn on you 
the other day in Texas Sittings from the N. Y. 
Sunday Mercury. It had evaded me up to that 
moment. I wrote you quite a letter care of Pretzel 
the other day, having forgotten where you would 
be at that time. 

I am looking forward with much pleasure to 
your visit here and so is my wife. She has spoken 
several times about it and the fun she looks for. 
We are staying at home prettly closely and hunger 
for some new stories with a dash of Dutch or Irish 
or nigger in them. That looks selfish of course 
but we are all selfish more or less. However, you 
needn't be the life of the party — if you don't feel 
like it — though I hope you will feel like it. I've 
got your show printing O. K. and its good, es- 
pecially the large variety. It makes you look like 


John Quincy Adams making his famous charge of 
The Six Hundred — dollars for services. I notice 
that your eyes have grown black and ominous 
since you got that lithograph made. They seem 
to burn with a slumbering glitter of hell in their 
murky depths. How's that? I thought of that my- 
self. You probably think I got it out of a book 
but I did not. I dashed it off this forenoon with- 
out stopping for feed or water. 

I address you at Indianapolis and though I can- 
not join your troupe I fear, we will have a quiet 
little reunion when you arrive here. 

With Mrs. Nye's kind regards and my own, deep 
and sincere, 

I am Consecutively Yours, 

Bill Nye. 

The ten days that I spent as Nye's guest at Hud- 
son was "one continual round of pleasure." 

Away up in the forests of Wisconsin we visited 
a lumber camp and spent the night. Nye had two 
brothers there. One of the brothers was a clerk 
for the lumber company and the other was a resi- 
dent attorney. This attorney then a very young 
man, was Frank M. Nye, now a member of Con- 
gress from Minnesota, and certain to be a Senator 
of the United States, in due time. The two broth- 
ers, though both barely having reached manhood 
in those lumber-camp days, gave evidence then 
that keen wit and bright humor characterized the 
Nye family. 

Among the persons to whom Nye introduced me 
in Hudson was an eccentric character of the vil- 
lage in whom Nye took exhuberant delight. This 
man had a way of inventing words to suit himself. 
He talked very rapidly and yet always with great 
seriousness. The old fellow was a bachelor of in- 
dependent fortune and lived at the village hotel, 
though he was much given to rambling abroad. 
Lately he had made a visit to Washington, D. C. 
and among the matters that had come under his 
attention there he told us of these: 

102. TEN WI 8 E MEN 

"1 was at the post-mortis on the body of that 
assassinatin' Guiteau, and if I ever saw a critter 
that ort to have been suspendered it was him." 

Ruminating for a moment, he continued then: 
"But lemme tell you, gentlemen, the most comical- 
ist and hisperatin' thing that I saw at Washing- 
ton was this here Doctor Mary Walker a ridin' 
a phelosipher." He meant a velocipede. 

At Nye's home one Sunday, while we were 
walking about the yard, he suddenly seized a 
stick of stovewood and hurled it, apparently, at 
an icicle of dangerous dimensions that hung from 
the eaves over an outhouse door. I supposed that 
he desired to knock the icicle off for fear that 
sometime it might fall with a thaw and a thud 
and hurt some one. But the stove stick missed 
the icicle and descending killed a cat that was 
standing, smiling in the sunshine and caressing 
herself with the corner of the kitchen. Nye had 
boasted of the unerring precision with which he 
could hurl a stove stick, and I was therefore as- 
tonished at the effect of the shot mentioned, when, 
in a burst of confidence, he informed me that it 
was his aim in life to kill that cat, and that he 
had intentionally sent that death-dealer via the 
icicle in order to more thoroughly surprise his 
victim. Said he: "This house is a perfectly new 
one, and I don't allow any old second-hand cat to 
come in from a neighbor's and rub the paint off 
of my homestead in the unfeelin' manner in 
which that feline has been doing it." 

In his domestic life Nye was one of the happi- 
est men alive. His ever-helpful, sensible and 
happy-hearted wife was always his best adviser 
in business matters, and she enjoyed his humor, 
that was perrenially spontaneous, as much as any 
one else, even when it was good-naturedly at her 
expense, which it frequently was, as for instance: 

One evening during the Hudson visit, Mrs. Nye 
was making some apologetic remarks about the 
supper. "Yes," chimed in the humorist, "the 


chefess de cuisine had to be so long at the wash- 
tub today that Mrs. Nye has kindly consented to 
cook the cold meats for this occasion only." 

Shortly after my return to Denver from the 
visit to Nye at Hudson, while he was riding with 
his brother Frank, one day, on a buck-board and 
near the lumber camp, a cyclone lifted Bill out, 
solus. It fondled him in its funnel and danced 
him in the air, and swept the earth with him, to 
some extent, and, finally, in its playful mood, de- 
posited him on the ground with a broken leg. I 
wrote him a letter of sympathy, but knowing that 
he would get many letters on the subject, took 
care to treat the matter in what I hoped would be 
a novel style. He appreciated the effort and was 
grateful. He wrote me: "If I ever have any in- 
fluence in the New Jerusalem you shall some day 
have a nice new harp that has never been played 
on, and as pretty a 7.V& crown as there is on the 
evergreen shore." Then, after alluding to his ac- 
cident, he says: "My leg is growing together all 
right, and the doctors say they will shortly turn 
me loose on the community again. I've had a 
long siege, and it seems tough at times, but I 
never kick — fact is, I don't dare to. Many have 
asked me how the thing happened. I cannot 
state, definitely, but think I must have stepped on 
a peel of thunder and slipped. People can't be 
too careful, peeling their thunder, about leaving 
the peels around where innocent and unsuspect- 
ing persons may step on them and get hurt." 

Nye's success did not change his awkward ways 
and looks, materially, and he resented the results 
therefrom among very flip hotel clerks and the 
like — the cheap element that judges persons by 
the cut of clothes and such. 

One night Nye arrived at a hotel in a small 
town in Illinois, and was assigned to a poor room on 
the first floor counting from the sky — and there was 
no elevator. In view of three flights of stairs — and 
him tired, too — Nye was not pleased. Besides, 

104 T EN W I 8 E MEN 

Bill Nye (later on). 


the clerk, seeing that his lodger had no baggage, 
except a sman handbag that he was hanging to 
quite tenaciously, demanded his pay in advance. 
Nye felt in his vest, and, taking out a thin roll 
of bank notes, offered the clerk a note with the 
$100 mark on it. The clerk 'couldn't change it, 
and Nye offered a $50 note with the same result; 
but as soon as the clerk had seen that Nye had 
plenty of money, with the obsequiousness of his 
class, he found he had overlooked a better room 
which he could give to this moneyed stranger, 
and that it was not really necessary to have his 
pay in advance. 

Nye looked at him queerly, and that cross-eyed 
glint shot slantwise from the left side of his nose. 

"You remind me very much of clay," he said to 
the clerk. 

"Who, Henry Clay?" the clerk asked, as if 

"N-o-o," returned Nye, with his peculiar drawl. 
"Just common clay — mud clay, you know. The 
kind they make beanpots and such things from." 

Then he went away to bed quite happy. 

During several years of Bill Nye's life, when 
the very strongest demands were being made upon 
him, his health was frail and frequently it seemed 
that he would not be able to stem the current. 
In spite of his weakness and suffering he kept up 
a cheery demeanor and from him came n con- 
stant glow of good humor. He never laughed 
boisterously but he wore a smile that would not 
come off, and was ever the delight of those with 
whom he was brought into social contact. Per- 
sonally he was tall, bald, angular, somewhat awk- 
ward in movement and would not have been 
thought to be a beauty by the average young wo- 
man. He had, bowever, a beauty of soul that 
shone in his face and which was entirely satis- 
factory to his friends. 

Like all true humorists, Bill Nye had a tender 
heart that was always bountiful in kindliness to 


those who deserved and needed it. Frequently he 
wrote to friends, under circumstances that de- 
manded condolence, letters that conveyed the 
gentlest, tenderest, sweetest sympathy. Upon the 
death of a little daughter of Judge James Bel- 
ford, the then famous Colorado Congressman, Nye 
wrote that gentleman a letter so full and over- 
flowing with the purest pathos and touching ten- 
derness that Mr. Rothacker, who was a connoiseur 
in the beauties of literature, sought and obtained 
Judge Belford's permission to print the beautiful 
and expressive missive in the Denver Tribune. 
It was widely copied as an exquisite sample of 
perfect composition. 

When Nye was winning his first gratifying 
popularity as a humorous lecturer I wrote these 
rhymes and sent them to him. They are not pre- 
sented as anything worse than my most earnest 
enemy might declare them, nor as fine as my most 
enthusiastic and forbearing friend might wish 
them to be, but simply as a way to end this 
sketch that could be extended far beyond the 
limit prescribed by the original plan of this work: 


With No Evil Intent. 

I've watched thy conspicuity, 
It's growth and continuity, 
And wished thy contiguity, 

Bill Nye. 

I've enjoyed thy lucidity, 
And thine artless timidity, 
Combined with intrepidity, 

Have I. 

No other man's jocundity 
Hath near so much profundity, 
Nor yet the same rotundity, 

Bill Nye. 


And thou findest it lucriferous — 
The same as argentiferous — 
While the cheering is vociferous, 

Aye, Aye. 

But now, discarding levity; 
Assuming proper brevity, 
I wish to thee longevity, 

Bill Nye. 

And I'm praying, rever-ent-ly, 
That the sweet subse-quent-ly 
Will deal with thee most gently. 

Bye, Bye 



Father of "Peck's Bad Boy." 

Rarely does the general public regard a man 
as great in more than one thing. Many poets who 
have each written numerous brilliant poems are 
only remembered by one of them. 

Witness Gray's "Elegy in a Churchyard." 
Generally that poem is alluded to as "Gray's 
Elegy." Few, comparatively, know that Thomas 
Gray ever wrote anything else, and yet in his own 
time his other poems were important factors in 
establishing the high repute accorded to him then, 
and still maintained, in the esteem of critics. He 
was indeed a man of vast erudition, learned not 
only in literature, but in botany, zoology, anti- 
quities, architecture, art, history and philosophy. 
He refused the post of poet laureate after the 
death of Colly Cibber and was professor of modern 
literature and languages in Cambridge Univer- 
sity. Spenser's "Faerie Queene" is another in- 
stance in the same line of evidence, and such 
might be many times multiplied in polite litera- 
ture. John Hancock is best, and for the most 
part, remembered by his large and emphatic 
signature leading the signers of the Declaration of 
Independence. Benedict Arnold is only remem- 
bered as a traitor. His greatness as an officer 
in the Revolutionary War and as a companion 
and compatriot of Washington was lost in his one 
great infamy. Nero is only thought of as a cruel 
tyrant who could riddle while imposing Rome was 
burning. His love of music and his promotion 
of art are over-looked. 

So on, ad infinitum and recluctio ad absurdum. 


But, gentle, — or wild — reader, did you ever hear 
much of George Wilbur Peck, printer, writer, hu- 
morist, soldier, patriot, mayor, governor, great 
man in a hundred ways? Well, if you are his 
personal friend, or a citizen of Wisconsin, yes. 
If you are just the average, every day reader and 
observer, doubtful. 

But did you ever hear of "Peck's Bad Boy?" 

Whoop-ee! Ha-ha! yes! Rather! 

George Wilbur Peck was the father, author, 
inventor, promoter and printer of "Peck's Bad 
Boy." Now you begin to get an inkling of the in- 
dividual with whom this section of this history 
has most to do. The clue will lead you to know 
all about him, then you will know much that is 
good to know. 

George Wilbur Peck was born at Henderson 
N. Y., in 1840 and quite early in life he learned 
to be a first-class printer. At twenty he owned 
a half interest in a newspaper — "The Republican" 
of Jefferson, Wisconsin. 

Jefferson was a bigger town then than were 
Kansas City and Omaha put together. Hundreds 
of today's big cities of the West had not even 
been started. But perhaps Jefferson was like a 
man who boasted that he was a fine jumper, ex- 
cept that he "lit too quick." However, Jefferson 
is not so insignificant. It "lit" somewhat sud- 
denly, but perhaps the owners of the place did 
not wish it to become a great, roaring Babylon, 
with greedy grafters, and sad-eyed straphangers, 
and self-seeking reformers, and street apaches 
that run over folks with cabs, and wagons, and 
auto-cars. Possibly those pioneers did not hanker 
after any of the evils that ramify metropoli. 

Anyhow, George Peck did not wait to see what 
Jefferson was going to do about those things. 
"Father Abraham" began calling for men to get 
shot at for divers and sundry reasons, and Peck 
responded, on horseback. He went as a private 
in the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry, won some better 
spurs than the common iron things that an en- 


listed man wears, and came home when the 
trouble was over, with shoulder-straps and an 
officer's gold-mounted sword, a good record and 
a heart full of peace and charity. 

He has the heart yet. 

When Peck and peace had got settled down, 
after the war, Peck started a newspaper at 
Ripon, Wisconsin. "The Representative," the 
paper was named. Shortly afterward he got rid 
of that and owned the LaCrosse Democrat with 
which, aforetime, "Brick" Pomeroy had caused 
trouble for himself — and others. In 1874 Peck 
established the "Sun at LaCrosse and in 1878 
moved it to Milwaukee and called it "Peck's 
Sun." About this time he invented "Peck's Bad 

Shortly after Mr. Peck started the Sun in Mil- 
waukee the weather about that solar system be- 
came so cloudy that the Sun was threatened with 
total obscuration. The clarifying air of advertis- 
ing patronage did not prevail in sufficient volume 
to rarify the financial density, and one day Mr. 
Peck sat in his office with gloomy forebodings, a 
depleted bank account and other such uncheerful 
company. The Sun had begun to look like an- 
other case of try-weekly that comes out one week 
and tries to come out the next. 

During his brief habitation of Milwaukee Editor 
Peck had found himself called upon to Sun-burn 
certain local politicians. Among those was a 
prominent dealer in fresh and cured meats whom 
he had never met, personally. 

While the editor sat in his un-easy chair con- 
templating with deep dejection the unpromising 
situation a large and dangerous looking man 
came in. This ominous person wore the habili- 
ments of a butcher and upon them in dry crimson 
were the stains that come from his calling. 

"Are you the editor of this paper?" he asked 
Mr. Peck, in what seemed to the newspaper man 
to be unnecessary tartness of tone. 

"I am," Mr. Peck very modestly admitted. 


"I'm a butcher," the man declared. 

"I see you are. Want to butcher some here?" 
the editor inquired. 

The butcher smiled, somewhat grimly, it seemed 
to Peck. 

"No," he continued. "I like your paper and I 
want a half page advertisement of my business 
in it. What will a half page cost for a year?" 

Editor Peck fell to figuring and announced the 

"All right," said the butcher. "And I'm too 
busy to be bothered with bills. Gimme a blank 

The blank was produced and the butcher filled 
in the amount necessary to pay for the half page 
for a year. 

"You'll find it all right at the bank. I'm pooty 
busy. Goodbye." 

As the butcher blew out at the door the clouds 
blew away from the Sun and the editor heaved a 
sigh of several kinds of relief. 

"Peck's Sun" was a phenomenal success. It went 
everywhere in the land and it shone brightly. It 
carried health and happiness in its beams and it 
fairly blazed with humor. George Peck wrote 
nearly everything in it. He worked like a mill- 
wheel, as steadily and continuously and he grew 
in wealth and popularity. 

One day in Denver, in the early '80s, I sat with 
him in the office of F. J. V. Skiff, manager of the 
Tribune. Eugene Field and Ottomar Rothaker 
were there and Peck told how the "Sun" rose; 
how it came out and scattered the clouds — for 
there were great banks of threatening clouds — 
that at times almost kept the sun from shining; 
how, at last, it brought him a beautiful home in 
Milwaukee and influence at the bank, a yacht on 
Lake Michigan and a "common of piscary" that 
even gave him right to go "a fishin' " week days, 
if he wished; how it brought him unlimited rail- 
road passes, and other kinds of passes, so that 
he could travel over Colorado, all of the United 


States and some parts of New Jersey, from Dan 
to Beersheba and from Podunk to Kalamazoo, 
and he could go to any show that he cared to see, 
and he liked to go to the circus and take the 

George Peck, who had once — and for a long 
time — wondered who was hiding all the money 
and where they hid it, sat cross-legged like a 
tailor, on manager Skiff's table and reveled in the 
relation of those things. 

Then Skiff said to me: "Why don't you do 
something like that?" 

I did. I started a paper after the manner of 
Peck's Sun and called it "Hello." It was a won- 
drous success for six weeks. When the first edi- 
tion came out we had to tear the wrappers from 
the copies that had been done up for mailing to 
desired exchanges, and as samples, and sell them 
to newsboys who gathered about the man who 
dealt the papers out like monkeys around a bag 
of chestnuts — and there was not a "chestnut" in 
the paper — until they crowded the man off of 
his perch and we had to build a kiosk in which he 
could lock himself for the sale of future editions. 
That night I went miles away to find a paper 
dealer who had gone home and to the neace and 
comfort thereof, routed him out, brought him 
down to his warehouse and from there I carried 
on my shoulders bundles of paoers. — more of 
them and a greater distance than Franklin wheel- 
barrowed his justly celebrated lot, — to the press 

For a few weeks my business partner and my- 
self could see the yacht "come a sailin' in," trips 
around the world, palaces and things. But, alas! 
the business man was taken down with measles — 
miserable measily measles! — and he came near 
dying. His interest was bought by a man who 
would queer a harvest in a good season. In a 
little while "Hello" became a faint echo: the cir- 
culation was short-circuited and nothing ever 
came from the "receiver." "Bout ship!" went 


the yacht, foreign trips were cancelled, even the 
mirage of the palaces faded away beyond the 
clouds of Spain and the man kicked the kiosk 
over. The boys didn't even come around to roll 
it about. But we had Peck's Sun on the "ex- 
change list" long after we had anything to ex- 

Afterward Peck was tumultuously elected 
mayor of Milwaukee — that is to say, in 1890 — 
then in 1891 he was elected Governor of Wiscon- 
sin for four years. The Sun set but Peck's Bad 
Boy went on. He is going yet. He went into 
a book and he was dramatized; lately he has 
broken out fresh in the comic pictures of Sunday 
editions of sundry newspapers. He is still a boy 
who has found the spring of perpetual youth. 
But George Wilbur Peck is yet in Milwaukee — not 
still in Milwaukee, for now and then he comes 
out, there or elsewhere, long enough to make a jolly 
speech, or a Democratic speech, to a symposium 
of jolly people or a batch of the class of politi- 
cians indicated by the speech in that line men- 
tioned. But Peck is still in Milwaukee enjoying, 
for the most time, the evening of life and his 
otium cum dignitate — whatever that is. He is 
vigorous, hale and happy and frequently goes 
"a fishin.' " He is modest in the days of his years 
and he will talk more unreservedly of anything 
than of himself. 

When he learned that this author desired to 
write this sketch he said: 

"I once owned a trotting horse that I sent to 
Tom Duafor to have him trained. Tom kept the 
horse a spell and the animal seemed to go slower 
every time I held the watch on him. Finally I 
asked Tom what he thought was the trouble^ 
Tom said: 'George, that horse seems to dwell.' I 
thought I could see that my horse seemed to 
'dwell' and I sold him to a man who rather 
enjoyed having a horse dwell. 

"I am the worst hand to write an obituary of 
myself that ever was. I do not know what you 


want for your book, but I would rather have a page 
of your imagination about me than a volume of 
facts. I could enjoy your pipe dreams about me 
while facts in regard to my career would drive me 
to drink. 

"You know all about me — that is all that I care 
to have known. I was a good book and job printer, 
and newspaper man, but was spoiled by trying 
politics and so forth; spoiled for a printer because 
my hands got soft and my heart got hard; spoiled 
as a politician because I never knew much about 
the game and did not want to learn. 

"I guess, after I am dead some of the boys who 
keep on living, will say that I was honest in poli- 
tics and knew quite a little about public affairs, 
that by trying to run the affairs of state as eco- 
nomically as I would a country printing office the 
people were saved money and were reasonably 
happy — when I got out. 

"I have not kept any of the good things that 
have been said about me, but I have kept most of 
the bad things and they fill a big trunk, and they 
make me laugh. Every little while some fellow 
that abused me comes along and acts as though 
he wanted to stay mad. I say: 'Hello, Bob!' and 
laugh at him and ask about his family. He 
chokes up and says : 'George, I treated you cussed 
mean.' Then I say: 'Forget it, old man and let's 
go a-fishin'.' From that out we are better friends 
than ever. 

"If I can live long enough to make all the fellows 
that were saucy to me in the political days, come 
into camp and say: 'Old boy, we are just begin- 
ning to appreciate that you were not half bad,' I 
shall give Methuselah a run on the old age graft 
he has had so long. 

"So, William, you can fix me up in your book 
from your memory, and it will be all right." 

The following is Governor Peck's opinion of 
women doctors as printed in the "Sun." 

"Shall farmers employ female doctors? 

"I should say, in answer to this great question, 


that a farmer, if there was nothing the matter 
with him, might call in a female doctor; but if he 
was sick as a horse — the last thing he should have 
around would be a female doctor, and why? Be- 
cause when a man wants a female fumbling 
around he wants to feel well. He don't want to 
be bilious, or feverish, with his mouth tasting like 
cheese, and his eyes bloodshot, when a female is 
looking over him and taking an account of stock. 

"Of course female doctors are all young and 
good looking, and if one of them came into a sick 
room where a farmer was in bed, and he had chills, 
and was as cold as a wedge, and she should sit up 
close to the side of the bed, and take hold of his 
hand, his pulse would run up to a hundred and 
fifty and she would prescribe for a fever when he 
had chilblains. Then if he died she could be 
arrested for malpractice. O, you can't fool us 
farmers on female doctors. 

"We have all seen doctors put their hands 
under the bedclothes and feel a farmer's feet to 
see if they were cold. If a female doctor should 
do that, it would give a farmer cramps in the legs. 

"A male doctor can put his hand on a farmer's 
stomach and liver, and lungs, and ask him if he 
feels any pain there, but if a female doctor should 
do the same thing it would make him sick, and he 
would want to get up and kick himself for eniDloy- 
ing a female doctor. Oh! there is no use talking, 
it would kill a farmer — a female doctor would! 

"Now suppose a farmer had heart disease, and 
a female doctor should want to listen to the beat- 
ing of his heart. She would lay her right ear 
on his left breast, so her eyes and rosebud mouth 
would be looking right into his face, and her wavy 
hair would be scattered all around there, getting 
tangled in the buttons of his night shirt. Don't 
you suppose his heart would get in about twenty 
extra beats to the minute? You bet! And she 
would smile — we will bet ten dollars she would 
smile — and show her pearly teeth, and her red 
lips would be working as though she were count- 

And som e m ore 117 

ing the beats, and he would think she was trying 
to whisper to him, and — 

"Well, what would he be doing all this time? 
If he was not dead yet, which would be a wonder, 
his left hand would brush the hair away from her 
temple, and his right hand would get sort of ner- 
vous and move around to the back of her head, 
and when she had counted the heart beats a few 
minutes and was raising her head, he would draw 
the head up to him and kiss her once for luck, if 
he was as bilious as a Jersey swamp angel, and 
have her charge it in the bill; and then a reaction 
would set in and he would be as weak as a cat, and 
she would have to fan him and rub his head until 
he got over being nervous, and then make out her 
prescription after he got asleep. No; all of a 
man's symptoms change when a female doctor is 
practicing on him, and she would kill him dead. 

"These women colleges are doing a great wrong 
in preparing these female doctors for the war path, 
and we desire to enter a protest in behalf of 
twenty million of farmers who could not stand 
the pressure." 

At this writing, speaking to Opie Read of Gov- 
ernor Peck, Mr. Read in his own lucid, graphic 
and genial way said this to me: 

"At some of the universities there may be pro- 
fessors of literature who would not regard George 
Peck as a man of letters. These professors, being 
teachers, believe that one may learn to write. 
And this is true. Any man who learns to talk 
politely can learn to write grammatically, 
smoothly, gracefully. This is the aim and is fre- 
quently the achievement of a university education. 
But is there a school in which a man may learn to 
invent? Is there a class room in which imagina- 
tion is born? Taine says that the province of 
genius is to create; and creation is a long journey 
from the acquired faculty of the critic. 

"Peck is a creator. He painted portraits that 
were never painted before from models that came 
into the studio of his fancy. Nor is his paint 


crude. His colors are like the colors of the 
seasons — always harmonious. The fact is that few 
men have written purer Anglo-Saxon than George 
Peck. Some of his sentences ring like a stroke 
upon a bell. His humor is distinctively American, 
whimsical and nervous. His lights and his shad- 
ows dance together, one whirling the other about 
in a waltz. His fun is as natural and as spontane- 
ous as a childhood prank. Ah! and his nature, 
how warm and glowing! What a delight it always 
is to meet him, to hear his voice, more than half 
music, and to grasp his hope-giving hand! The 
ill-wind that has blown us no good does not change 
his friendship for us. He is always the same — a 
true-hearted gentleman." 



/':'■•■ l ■ , ■ : , .j , . , j| ; ' ; ■ i 


"You must know Opie Read, the editor of the 
Arkansaw Traveler," said Eugene Field to me one 
day in the summer of 1887. "He is one of our kind 
of people. He has brought his paper from Little 
Rock and it is printed here in Chicago, now, and 
has 60,000 circulation." 

Through the freemasonry of newspaperdom I 
had been acquainted with Read several years but 
had not met him personally. 

Field took off his zebra-striped suit, donned his 
street apparel and together we sallied down La 
Salle avenue, took a lift in a sky-scraper and were 
soon in the presence of the Southern humorist 
and romancer. Instantly Read and myself be- 
came friends and that friendship has lasted, unre- 
mittingly through all the years since, almost phe- 

Physically, Read was astonishing. Six feet 
three inches tall, heavily built, weighing about 
two hundred and fifty pounds and without an 
ounce of surplus flesh, he seemed a giant. Upon 
his head was a broad-brimmed, western hat that 
sat where it landed without trimming, upon a 
great mass of black hair that was tousled like a 
fodder shock after a windstorm. 

This was before Read had won fame as a writer 
of fiction. Now, however, his success as a writer 
of American, especially southern, romance is es- 
tablished. He won people long ago; now he has 
won the critics and his books come fast — and go. 

Not long ago I asked him how it came about 
that he should write novels. 

"I was born that way," he said. "At our home, 
when I was a boy, were several of my nephews. 


They were a few years younger than myself, and 
to tell them stories was my assignment. They 
would ask my father to make me tell them stories, 
and he did. I don't know why. He had never 
heard me tell a story." 

"And that didn't set you against it?" 
"No; I liked it. At last I told them a serial 
story. It took a long time — about two years, I 
think, but I had an inexhaustible theme. The 
title of it — if it had one — was 'Robert the Good 
Shooter.' This Robert was a wonder. He and 
his party had a hunting car, and that car was 
more than a wonder. It was outfitted with power- 
ful engines, and at the will of the occupants big 
saws and axes, worked by machinery, were swung 
out in front and along the sides, and when the 
car struck the woods it simply cut its way 
through, slashing trees and undergrowth in all 
directions, except toward the car. When it came 
to a river, up flew some sides, like the gunwales 
of a boat, and the car plunged over the water 
faster than any steamboat you ever heard of. 
Then it ran up the bank as if it were a wagon on 
a fair hill road, with a strong team hitched to it. 
Fact is that car didn't stop for anything, except 
when Robert and his men wished to have it stop." 
"Where did you get the idea of the hunting- 


"Don't know. It just came to me, I suppose. 
Of course it was an echo of something. I had 
been reading about the chariots of ancient gods 
and conquerors that had big knives and wings 
attached; and warriors fighting with bows and 
arrows, clubs, javelins and what not, and I sup- 
pose it was that." 

"But what did Robert hunt?" 

"Oh, bears and buffaloes, elk, deer, indians, 
runaway negroes, foxes, wolves, squirrels, rabbits 
— nearly anything that he took a notion to hunt — 
tigers, lions, elephants and mastadons, some- 

"Well, how did you get to writing?" 


"I persuaded my father to let me go to work in 
a printing office, and I had novel-writing in my 
head all the time. I learned printing and went to 
college and set up the type of the college maga- 
zine. Afterward I got into the newspaper busi- 
ness, but always with the idea of writing books. 
I knew well enough that after I had written a 
book I would have a hard time getting a publisher, 
so I cultivated the guild, and by the time the first 
book was ready the publisher was ready also. As 
soon as one of the books became somewhat suc- 
cessful I quit newspapers, as I had always intend- 
ed to do, except as a contributor." 

"How many books have you written?" 

"Too many, probably. Some of them I have 
suppressed. They were pulled before they were 

"How long do you intend to continue novel 

"Long as they want them and I feel able." 

"Of course you like it?" 

"If I didn't I would saw wood or something." 

"Will you ever write any other kind of a book 
than a novel?" 

"Not if I can help it, and I think I can. But 
say, this begins to sound like a catechism. Would 
you like to know who were my sponsors in bap- 

Read has the reputation, among those who see 
him frequently and who know him least, of being 
indolent. He is, in fact, one of the most inces- 
sant workers in the literary field. His very recrea- 
tions are taken in the interest of his work. He 
tells stories at his club to the knots of men who 
draw their chairs up to his to listen, and .he does 
that to keep his fancy at work. He reads the 
heaviest, strongest and most volumnious books, 
and then re-reads them. Gibbon, Macaulay, Mot- 
ley, Carlyle, Hume, are his best friends, and he 
loves Shakespeare. He is familiar with all the 
great poets, and Taine he knows by heart. These 




T£/oiessE£ Judge 



he goes to for strength and style. Comparatively 
he reads little of fiction. That is his slave. 

Almost anybody that can read will become fond 
of Opie Read's books if he takes one of them up, 
but to the persons who are familiar with the 
scenes and characters from which his stories are 
drawn, they are an unspeakable delight, and what 
is more, they excite wonder as to how he accom- 
plishes their pervading feature, the soft and gentle 
realism that is in them. One would be laughed at 
if he should propose to create the air and trans- 
port it. If that could be done we would have 
cool sea breezes and the grateful odors of the 
woods brought to the stifling city, and save all the 
expense of summer resorting, so far as its actual 
necessity is concerned, just as we obtain- the 
waters of healing springs in imported bottles and 
casks. The other is out of the range of human 

But Opie Read brings to those who know of it 
the very atmosphere of the region concerning 
which he writes. At least it seems that he does, 
and that which seems to be real is real enough 
for all intents and purposes, as applied to the 

When Read was nine years old I was nearly 
nineteen, and that was in the early months of the 
civil war, that is to say, after the war had reached 
Kentucky. It had been going on in Virginia some 
months before Kentucky accepted the disturbance 
as an established fact, for they who can remem- 
ber those days will also remember that Kentucky 
declared for "armed neutrality" at the beginning 
of the affair. The State authorities proposed in 
short that Kentucky should form a hollow square, 
face outwards and lick both sides if they dared 
attempt to invade her sacred borders. This idea 
finally gave way to the exigencies of the times 
and some of the choicest battles of the season 
were fought on Kentucky soil. 

A strange haze came over Kentucky, and in- 
deed, the whole South; a sort of country Sunday 


quiet; a something in the air indescribable. I was 
a soldier in Kentucky, and saw it and felt it. 
Opie Read was a child in Tennessee, but in "My 
Young Master," the scene of which is laid in Ken- 
tucky, Read has made palpable that atmosphere. 
He has caught it between the covers of that book, 
and when one who knew it and was of it allows 
the letter-text to penetrate his intelligence the 
whole business comes back to him. 

This is the sublimation of art. 

There is an odor about a battle-field during the 
fight, and immediately afterward, that is not 
known elsewhere. I have often wondered if even 
a suggestion of it will ever come to me again. I 
thought that possibly Hugo's Waterloo in "Les 
Miserables," or Stephen Crane's battle sketch in 
the "Red Badge of Courage" might bring the sug- 
gestion. They did not, but if Opie Read ever 
writes a battle I shall expect it. What he has 
done in "My Young Master," "A Kentucky 
Colonel," "The Jucklins," and> indeed, in every 
book he has written, warrants the belief. 

In those books you may taste the honey-dew; 
you can see a squirrel squat and hide in the forks 
of a tree; a 'possum, lonesome and listless, hangs 
by the prehensile end of his tail to the limb of 
a paw-paw bush; a drop of rain spatters in the 
living velvet of a rose; the scent of tobacco and 
the whitish hue of its smoke comes from the 
corn-cob pipe and the lips of a "po' white" woman; 
the plaintive, faraway call of a dove, deep in the 
woods, is heard; the melancholy pipe of a whip- 
poorwill comes from a thicket, at night, and in 
the evening the chatter of tree-frogs is heard; 
the rustle of a woman's starched skirt is near; 
the bay of hounds, on the ' trail of a fox, comes 
down a wooded hollow; the red tassel of the iron- 
weed bends in the light wind that blows across 
blue-grass pastures; a meadow-lark sings his 
first spring-song, short, yet full of soulful melody. 

Read knows the woods, the fields, the swamp, 
the city, the hearts of men and women, and he 


tells of all these things in simple and unmistak- 
able language. You do not think of rhetoric, or 
diction, or prose, or poetry, when you read his 
print. You see things. He does not make pic- 
tures of things. He makes things. 

When one reads with that man he does not 
know where to quit writing of what he has read, 
and yet he almost despairs at the outset of a 
place to begin. 

Watch him as the decade runs to its last sun- 
set. The long shadows of his literature will 
reach far into the hereafter. 

As a man of the every day, Read is singularly 
prejudiced and strangely just, paradoxical as that 
may seem. I think his prejudices are assumed 
for the fun he gets out of that sort of perversity. 
His justice is real, unyielding and arbitrary. He 
will nag a friend to desperation. Let somebody 
else attempt the same thing in his presence, he 
becomes almost terrible to the man who dares 
to even so much as prick the sensitiveness of 
that friend. If he does not like you he would 
scorn to give you the attention that comes with 

Notwithstanding that Read is almost a giant, 
he is not ponderous. He walks with a strong 
tread and yet his step is quiet. He is handsome, 
but his clothes do not seem to fit him, yet he is 
graceful. He is as strong as he is big, but he is 
quiet and gentle in a manly way. His tender- 
ness is always timely, but I have seen him go 
into a dentist's shop and call for a pair of for- 
ceps, and while the dentist was proffering his 
services, Read fastened the forceps to an offend- 
ing molar and wrenched it out, throwing it into 
the grate with the remark: "Now ache if you 
choose," then washed his hands with cold water, 
and walked out with a pleasant "Good-day" re- 
suming the previous conversation. 

Opie Read was born in Nashville, Tennessee, 
and was reared on a farm at Gallatin, in the same 
State, near the Kentucky line. He was not fond 




of the farm, at least not of its drudgery, and he 
learned to be a printer. After his school days, 
at a now defunct rural college, he became one 
of the editors of the newspaper — the Patriot, at 
Franklin, Ky. — on which he had learned type- 
setting. The newspaper became a financial fail- 
ure in the hard times following the money panic 
of 1873, and Read walked away. He walked to 
Arkansas, but he set type at intervals on news- 
papers along the line of march. On this trip Read 
started with a carpet bag in which was an un- 
abridged dictionary that he had won by writing 
the best essay on the work, and a few other 
books: These he parted with for food as he jour- 
neyed, retaining the ditcionary as the last, but 
finally he gave that up for a coarse meal at a 
coarse farm-house, and a piece of meat and bread 
wrapped in a newspaper, that he carried in the 
carpet-bag until consumed. Then he threw the 
carpet-bag away, and went on unhampered. For 
a time he and his companion-printer started news- 
papers, here and there in Arkansas, but finally 
Read went to work as a writer on the Little 
Rock Gazette. In that city he was married to 
Miss Julia Benham, and he and his brother-in- 
law, Philo Benham, established the Arkansas 
Traveler, a humorous weekly that obtained na- 
tional fame. It grew so that they took the pub- 
lication to Chicago, and it succeeded until Read 
began to write novels that succeeded. Then the 
Traveler was sold to a syndicate that published 
ever so many class periodicals and the Traveler 
traveled out of sight. When it lost Read it lost 
its soul, and it has probably gone to where all 
the lost souls go. 

Opie Read has since won international recogni- 
tion as a writer of fiction. He has written about 
thirty novels, some of which are published in 
England by A. & C. Black, the extensive London 
publishing firm, and the British critics are amaz- 
ingly kind to Mr. Read. 

They who read Opie Read's books may think 
they have some idea of the man's mentality, but 


it cannot be obtained that way. One must be 
personally acquainted with him. He is one of 
the most interesting conversationalists to be met 
with in a lifetime. Association with him is a 
literary school, and yet he doesn't "talk shop." 
He seems to have read everything and remem- 
bered it. He shows this in his every day con- 
versation and without the slightest pedantry or 
affectation. No matter what the subject under con- 
sideration, he talks of it glibly and yet wisely 
from the standpoint of those who have made it a 
study, seasoned with his own common sense and 
logic. He is not a politician; on the contrary, 
rather dislikes political affairs, but he talks of 
such matters with a clearness, force and spirit 
that would lead you to believe he has made a 
special study of parties, their men and measures, 
of centuries, and that he is altogether a past 
master of political economy. It is a part of the 
man's wide curriculum. He is entirely at home 
in what is best for one to eat, and is versed in 
hygienics, but suffers from indigestion. He is 
informed upon the conventionalisms of high life 
yet avoids conventional society. He gives strong 
reasons for pessimism and is a pratcical optimist. 
He loves literature, but would not allow the great- 
est author in the world to read a manuscript to 
him. He is really more fond of music than any 
other man I ever saw, and knows not a note of 
it, though he will catch an air the first time he 
hears it. He loves art, especially in painting, but 
he doesn't even write a good hand, though it is 
very plain. He is an ardent admirer of women, 
but does not dance attendance upon them. With 
all this he is great in body, intellect and soul. 

When Opie Read was a boy of little more than 
nine years, during the Civil war, he rode into 
battle behind a Confederate bugler, on the same 
horse! The bugler was shot dead and tumbled 
from his seat. Opie clambered into the empty 
saddle and looked around. The scrambled mass 
of blue and gray was gone. He was in an open 


field. He saw a meadow-lark light on a swaying, 
red-tasselled iron weed, and heard the bird 
sing its summer song. He knew then that the 
battle had ended, and he rode home on the dead 
bugler's horse. 

Read revels in negro dialect and the patois 
of the "po' white," the "cracker" of Georgia and 
the "clod-hopper" of Kentucky and Tennessee. 
In speaking of the black people he calls them 
"negroes," with the peculiar accent of the south- 
erner, and never as "niggers." This is a dis- 
tinction that, among persons of Read's generation 
and the generations before him, almost invariably 
marked in one way the difference between well- 
bred and ill-bred southerners. 

"Read's roost" is the name of a certain lounge 
at the rooms of the Chicago Press club, where 
the novelist rests a great part of the time when 
down in the city, and where he smokes "Wheel- 
ing stogies" and builds his books. 

But when it is seen that he is willing to have 
company, which is pretty much any time, half 
a dozen chairs are drawn up about him, occupied 
by club mates, eager to hear him talk, for his 
conversational powers are wonderful, and he is 
remarkably entertaining. 

Frequently he tells stories which are embellish- 
ments of incidents that occurred in his newspa- 
per days, down south. Once he told this story: 

"Jim Holmes printed the 'Beacon' at Camden, 
Ark. I was working on the Little Rock Gazette. 
Holmes and I had frequent spats at each other. 
We had never met. One time I said in the paper: 

" 'When Jim Holmes went to Camden he was 
poor and honest. He is still poor.' 

"That was too much for Holmes and he started 
for Little Rock, ostensibly to thrash me. I hap- 
pened to be at the railway station when Holmes 
got there. He was the picture of wrath — and an 
Arkansaw country editor — and he bad a revolver 
hanging on one hip that was so big it sagged 
him down on that side. 


"'Do you live here?' he asked me. 

"I told him that I did. 

" 'Well, say, you look like our sort of people. 
Let's take a drink.' 

"We did. I reciprocated, and he repeated. That 
sort of thing- continued through many rounds and 
far up the street. Meantime he had imparted to 
me, as a friend, the business that had brought 
him there, and I had agreed to show him the 
way to the Gazette office, and in fact, to accom- 
pany him. When we reached the editorial rooms 
no one else was present, and we sat down. I 
found a box of cigars and a 'wicker-kivered' de- 
canter, which we discussed, and Holmes swore him- 
self in as my friend. 

" 'But you seem to be mighty much at home 
around here,' he said. 

"I told him I ought to be, as I worked there 
when not entertaining friends from the country. 

About this time the galley boy came in and 

" 'Mistah Read, his nobs says det if he doan git 
some copy fum you pooty soon he's goin' to sen' 
de prints home tell after supper.' 

" 'Are you Opie Read?' Holmes asked. 

" 'That's who I am. How do you like the out- 

"He took a glance at my size then said: 

" 'Well I'll be blamed. That's one on me. 

"And we shook." 

Short things, like this that follows, run through 
Read's brain, wantonly: 

"I was riding one night on a Little Rock horse- 
car. 'Biff! Bang!' something struck the car. An 
old negro had landed on the platform. He looked 
about with a scared expression and said: 

"'Somebody's done robbed me! Yes dey is! 
Somebody done stud me up agin a wall, out dar, 
an' tuck two dollahs an' six-bits away fum me! 
Dat ain no way to ack in a town lak dis.' " 


Another mood will turn Read to the invention 
and relation of an incident like this: 

"Man in a Texas town — border of Arkansaw, 
Big bully, out for a spree. Real bad man, swing- 
ing along plank sidewalk. Six-shot gun and two- 
pound bowie in his belt. Men go around him. 
Huge negro meets him and does not give way; 
walks straight ahead. Bad man surprised. 
Draws back his knotted fist and plants it crusningly 
on the negro's mouth. Negro in severe pain 
throws up his black hands, and from his bleed- 
ing and trembling lips come the words: 

" 'Scuse me, marster. I didn't mean no harm. 
I'se blind, you see.' 

"Instantly the desperado of the man is gone. 
He changes into a tender hearted human being. 

"'Great God! Old man forgi' me. I didn't 
know you wuz afflicted that way. Come with 
me.' And takes the blind negro's arm and leads 
him to a saloon first, of course. 'Here, give this 
man a place to wash his mouth, then give him a 
slug of the best you've got in your old she- 

"These things being properly attended to, he 
takes the blind negro to a clothing store. 

" 'Here, fit this man, from hat to shoes, in the 
best you've got in your shop.' 

"As he leads the blind negro, now a man and 
a brother, from place to place, filling his pockets 
with confections and toys for his children and 
nick-nacks and bandanas for his 'ole 'oman,' 
ladies on the street remark, 'What a kind-heart- 
ed gentleman that is.' 'See how he cares for that 
poor, blind negro.' " 

No writer gets closer to nature in his work than 
does Opie Read. Somebody has said, "Truth is 
stranger than fiction," but somebody else has 
said, and more to the point, that "The truths of 
fiction are the strongest truth." Opie Read says, 
"Fiction is a stronger light thrown upon truth," 
and there is evidence of this in Read's every 


Sometimes this man writes in verse, but only 
for amusement, and always in dialect. Even in 
that he makes pictures of nature as the strongest 
photograph, — stronger, indeed, for he gives the 
most faithful shadings, tintings and colorings. 

Here is one of his little darkey sketches in 
rhyme that illustrates how faithfully he portrays 
nature, even in its homeliest moods, and it also 
shows how humor and pathos commingle in his 
work, proving once more that the two are of a 
"Siamese twindom," in that one cannot live apart 
from the other: — 


Hit woan he long fo' de col' win' blows, 
Wid its bref so cuttin' an' so keen, 

Er whirlin' an' er rattlin' de ole dry leaves 
Dat once was so pooty an' so green. 

De ole hen's chickens is all done hatch, 
And some on em's larnt how to crow; 

Dat sassy young dominicker '11 come down a peg 
W'en he freeze bofe feet in de snow. 

De ole 'scovey duck will feel mighty bad 
W'en deys ice on de water by de mill; 

De po' ole critter '11 ha' ter wait for a thaw, 
Fo' she tote a lump er mud on ner bill. 

De hawgs squeals loud w'en de fros' 'gin to fall, 
An' dey crowds one nuther in de pen; 

One doan keer if tother gwinter freeze, — 
Hawgs, dey's mighty like men. 

De leaves comes 'cross de ole graveyard, 

W'en de col' win' rars en raves; 
Dey whirls an' rattles on de frozen groun', 

Den settles in de sunken graves. 

Dey puts me in min' of de chillen of de yearth — 

De moanful 'dition of us all; 
Deys fresh an' green in de spring of de year, 

But dey settles in de grave in de fall. 

AN D 80 ME MORE 185 

In a Laird & Lee edition of his books, up to 
the autumn of 1896, given to me by Mr. Read, he 
wrote in each volume an epigrammatic estimate 
of it. 

Following are copies of those estimates, under 
the respective titles. As Read is his own most re- 
lentless critic, this summary should be considered 
a very correct one: 

Of "Emmett Bonlore," Mr. Read says: "With 
the exception of another story — 'nameless here 
for evermore' — this book is my first, and into it 
I have put myself; and, therefore, it is full of 
faults. But I have a fondness for 'Bonlore.' " 

He says of "Len Gansett," his second book: 
" 'Len Gansett' is a true picture, and the char- 
acters are real. I like old man Gansett, and my 
father thought that the character was drawn from 
him. I don't know but it was." 

Concerning "A Kentucky Colonel," he writes: 
" 'The Colonel,' thus far, is my most successful 
book, and I like it. Not on account of its suc- 
cess, but because it is close to tne soil. To write 
it was a delight." 

He declares of the "The Colossus": "The work 
in 'The Colossus' is careful, and there are true 
pictures in it." 

Of "The Tennessee Judge," he gives this opin- 
ion: "The critics say that the 'Judge' is my 
most finished work. They declare that it is more 
nearly a unity. This may be, but unity may be 

He writes of "The Wives of the Prophet" in 
this way:- "'The Wives of the Prophet' is a 
study. Some people like it; others do not. And 
concerning it I am indifferent." 

"Down on the Suwanee River" is thus disposed 
of by Mr. Read: "This is a muse and a dream 
along the Suwanee River. It is a desperate and 
feverish dream, but in it there are restful places." 

He says of "The Jucklins": "I don't know but 
I like this better than any of my books. I know 


the Jucklins. I see them now, and they appeal 
to nie." 

"Miss Madam" is the title of a book of many- 
pretty little sketches, and Mr. Read says of them: 
"These short stories are mere glimpses of my 
wayward life." 

Concerning "My Young Master" he has written 
this to me: "The story of 'My Young Master' 
is still so new in my mind that I scarcely know 
what to • say of it I have an impression, how- 
ever, that it contains much truth, and I know 
that it was written with great care." 

Since the date mentioned, Laird & Lee have 
brought out, of Mr. Read's books: "Tear in the 
Cup and Other Stories," "Turk," "Old Ebenezer," 
"The Carpet-Bagger," "The Starbucks," "The 
Hark-riders," "The Son of the Sword-maker," and 
"By the Eternal." Thompson & Thomas have pub- 
lished "An American in New York," Rand & Mc- 
Nally, "In the Alamo," "Judge Elbridge," "A 
Yankee from the West," "An Arkansas Planter," 
"Up Terrapin River," "The Waters of Caney 
Fork," and "Confessions of Marguerite," Way 
& Williams, "Bolanyo," and there are scat- 
tering works of Read from other publishers; 
about thirty novels, and every one of them 
have been successful, many of them phenomenally 
so, and some of them as plays, particularly "The 
Starbucks," and "The Hark-riders," dramatized 
by Mr. Read himself. 

Among the thousands of terse and forcible 
epigrams evolved by the characters in these books 
the following are a few: 

"The devil titters when men argue." 

"It is more respectable in the eye of the world 
to be a thief than a pauper." 

"The love that we learn to bestow is the easi- 
est love to take away." 

"Compliments are almost worthless when they 
reach none but the nattered ear." 

"The worry of a strong man is a sign of dan- 

AN D S M E M RE 137 

'Scuse me, marster, I didn't mean no harm 
I'se blind, you see." 


"There is more of conviction in silent opposites 
than in noisy arguments." 

"Some men might argue that it is difficult if 
not impossible for a failure to become a success, 
but all astonishing success have come out of pre- 
vious failure.'' 

"A confession of ignorance is a step toward 

"To enjoy a principle we must share it with a 

"A marriage tie cannot hold an unwilling mind." 

"How weak it is to sin and how strong to for- 

"You must not be a cynic — it is an acknowledge- 
ment of failure." 

"The children of genius are cheapened by fre- 
quent parade." 

"If you make an equal of a man who is not 
your equal he is sure, sooner or later, to insult 

"How many strange things love will make a 
man say." 

"A law book without poetry behind it is a 
heap of helpless dust." 

"To be wholly respectable a man must give up 
many an enjoyment." 

"There are always two hopes walking with a 
doubt, one on each side, but a certainty walks 

"When a man has once been a 'servant' of the 
people he is never satisfied to fall back among 
the powerless 'masters.' " 

"Any tie of life that holds us to some one, al- 
though at times its straining may fall a little 
short of agony, is better far than slipshod free- 
dom from responsibility." 

"Humor is the cream that rises to the surface 
of 'the milk of human kindness.' " 

"He who has suffered in childhood and who 
in after life has walked hand in hand with dis- 
appointment, and is then not sensitive, is a 


"We are never tired of a man so long as we 
can laugh at him." 

"To desire commendation is of itself a merit." 

"The victim of a king's displeasure is not in- 

"We sometimes wound a life-long friend with 
a word that would have no effect upon a mere ac- 

"Let us say that sometimes the devil giveth 
and the Lord taketh away." 

For the five or six years last past Opie Read 
has traveled thousands upon thousands of miles 
in this republic under the auspices of lecture 
bureaus and Chautauqua managements, giving 
readings from his short stories, and lectures that 
exploit his deep, quaint, wise and humorous phil- 
osophies. In that work he has become an enter- 
tainer of such charming quality that there could 
not be time enough for him to fill all the engage- 
ments that are offered him, unless he might ac- 
quire the capacity for ubiquity. 

For a few seasons I accompanied Mr. Read on 
these tours and participated in the work of en- 

On such a trip one sees things — even an ab- 
stemious man — more than he would if he were 
"traveling in trade," for then the demands of his 
business confine him. We were filling lyceum en- 
gagements in cities and towns along the Louis- 
ville and Nashville Railroad in Kentucky, Tennes- 
see and Alabama. In some of those places Opie 
Read had passed months, and sometimes years, 
of his boyhood and early manhood, and many of 
the older citizens continue to call him by his 
Chirstian name, often abbreviating that. 

In one town an old-time friend of Read, dis- 
cussing the latter's books, unwittingly and in his 
own peculiar style, repeated the statement that 
"truth is stranger than fiction." 

This is how he did it: 

"I've be'n readin' some of yo' books, suh, 'cause 
they treat— nothin' irrelative intended, suh," he in- 
terpolated with a smile, — "of things that we know 


about. An' suh, I have discovered that what is, 
and what was, and what is going to be, and all 
the ev'ry day things around us have got mo' 
po'try, romance and heart-int'rust in them, suh, 
than the impossible doin's of Scott's i'ernclad 
knights, Cooper's Injun killers or Marryat's pirate 
eaters. But you have done me mawtal injury, 
suh. You have opened my eyes to the beauty of 
things all aroun' me, suh, an' larnt me, when it's 
too late, suh. 

"But I don't hold it agin you, suh." 

A distinguished writer of Kentucky once said 
of another distinguished writer of the same state, 
•'It came to be questioned which was the most 
dangerous, his pistol or his pen; for he was a 
dead shot as well as a dreadful satirist." 

And yet this man once refused to fight a duel 
for the sake of perpetrating a joke. He replied 
to his challenger that it took only one fool to send 
a challenge, while it took two to fight, and he 
desired to escape the category. 

Opie Read has a heart as tender as a gentle 
woman's, and his pockets are kept bare of small 
change because he is continually giving it away 
to beggars. Notwithstanding this disposition in 
Opie Read, he delights in a practical joke even 
in the performance of a charity, or a constitu- 
tional kindness. To illustrate: One day a fellow 
such as one often comes in contact with in city 
streets, followed Read importuning him for a 
coin. The man kept step with Read along the 
sidewalk, and told his "tale of woe," winding up 
by saying, "Can't you help me along?" 

"You seem to be getting along quite as fast as 
I," Read replied; and the man stopped. Read 
turned and looked at him with a smile, then gave 
him all the money he had about him, except 
enough to pay his own car-fare home. 

In the back-yard at Opie Read's home is a peach 
tree that should be cut down and cast into the 
fire, if scriptural injunction were followed. It 
has never borne fruit, good or bad. 


Read's family had been out in the country sev- 
eral weeks in the summer but returned in the 
fall. They got home at night and early next 
morning Opie, who is a very "soon" riser, got 
out to a neighboring fruit stand and bought a 
big basket of very fine peaches. These he in- 
dustriously stuck all over the branches of that 
tree, and then went in and called the family to 
show them that the tree had finally decided to 
do the proper thing. Then he went out and 
picked the peaches himself. The family thought 
better of that old tree and expected great things 
of it the next season. But Read was not at home 
when it should have made its luscious and prolific 
yield, hence it has only been a summer shade 
tree, since. However, for one season Mr. Read's 
young folks got the peaches and he had lots of 
fun. Moreover, the peaches were just as good — 
perhaps better — than if the tree had borne them. 
At any rate- all spoke of how much better it was to 
have peaches picked from the tree than to have 
old, second-hand fruit store stock. 

Once, a few years ago, I was a visitor at the 
home of Mrs. S. D. Butler, one of Opie Read's sis- 
ters, and she told me of many incidents of her 
brother's boyhood. 

She said, among other things, that farm work 
was very distasteful to Opie. His aesthetic na- 
ture positively loathed that sort of contact with 
the soil. When he was sent into a field to plow 
corn he seldom came out at the other end of the 
row, but could generally be found, some hours 
after he started in, sitting in the shade of a stump 
reading a book, while the horse was eating down 
the young and tender blades of the corn within 
the radius of his tether. 

On one occasion Opie's father was having a big 
gate and the connecting fence moved to another 
line, and had told Opie to dig holes for the gate 
posts, at spots indicated by him. 

"What's the need of that?" Opie asked. "Why 
not move up these holes that are already dug?" 

142 TEN WI S E M EN 

The old gentleman did not take to Opie's humor- 
ous trend, hut looking at the boy strangely, for a 
moment, he said at last: 

"Now you go to the house, and don't come about 
here any more." Then turning to Opie's older 
brother, he said: 

"I hope I may die if I don't believe that boy 
ain't right bright in his mind." 

One winter night Opie's mother missed him 
from the house. A heavy sleet was falling and 
Opie had gone into the woods, near by, to listen 
to the music of the sleet among the trees. His 
father went with a lantern in search of him and 
found the honest boy sitting on a log. 

"What are you doing here?" the father asked. 

"Listening to the music of the sleet." 

"Hadn't you better come into the house?" 

"Yes, if you think so." 

Father Read happened to mention the incident 
to a neighbor, and it became rumored that the 
boy was deranged. Some folks would shy around 
him when they met him "in the big road." How- 
ever, it became settled that while he was not 
"right bright in his mind," he was "a harmless 

Altogether, Opie Read is a strong character, 
as intense as any that have been written of. He 
is true, honest, generous, natural, brilliant, 
learned. He is a figure in American literature at 
which the world is looking, and he will receive 
the reward of earnest, intelligent and worthy 
work. His romances are strong and pure, and 
he writes of character, custom and peculiarities 
among the scenes he depicts, just nrecisely as 
they are. When his characters talk, they talk 
naturally; and when the author speaks, his dic- 
tion is pure and rich, yet plain and unassuming. 
The man utterly desmses -pedantry, and is as 
easy in his work as he is in telling a brilliant 
story to a party of admiring listeners; and yet 
he loiters along paths where flowers bloom, 
among the woods where birds are singing, into 


places where passion surges, and amid the se- 
cluded nooks where love is sweetest and most 
blissful. He writes poetry in prose as naturally 
as white clouds float beneath the blue of summer 
skies. Yet, with all his greatness, Opie Read 
seems to comprehend it less than any one who 
knows him, and in his work and daily life he is 
an exemplification of the kinship between humor 
and pathos. 


He leads you from the city's glare and blare, 
Its conflict and its killing wear and tear, 
Where shredded nerves are quivering, and woe — 
The minor strain — pervading deep and low, 
The crashing music of it all, appeals 
To Tenderness, that weeps with what she feels, 
But sheds her tears in hopelessness, while Sin 
Rides high and blatant, mid the ceaseless din. 
With wondrous art, and mighty heart and soul 
And trenchant pen, he leads to where we stroll 
Away from rush, and roar, and grasping greed; 
Prom truckling cant, deceit and hollow creed, 
To fields and woods where sweetest flowers grow; 
By streams and hills, where southern breezes blow, 
And this is Opie Read. 

With him we hear the song of cooing dove, 
That calls its mate and tells its gentle love. 
The rain-drops splash the rose's open breast; 
In white and gold the orange trees are drest; 
The bay of hounds comes down the wooded glen; 
At night the gray fox barks beside his den; 
In ardent summer-time a seeming snow, 
Lies deep, in broad, white cotton-fields, that glow 
Beneath the sun's fierce rays, and mellow song 
Rings through the woods, in echoes sweet and 

Soft breezes sway the red-topped iron-weed, 
In pastures clean, where high-bred cattle feed; 
His man, his maid, his hero and his clown, 
Are true to life, as he has writ them down, 
For this is Opie Read. 



Governor and Senator. 

It seems quite natural that Robert L. Taylor 
of Tennessee should have been born at Happy 
Valley, which is in Carter county of the "Old Vol- 
unteer State." 

If "Bob" Taylor has not been one of the hap- 
piest mortals that ever "sawed a fiddle," appear- 
ances have been as deceptive as a mirage and the 
equations have not equated. His sadness, when 
he has had any, has been over the misfortunes 
or sufferings of others; solicitude for those he 
loves, and that is nearly the entire race, barring 
only those who are constitutional^ and incor- 
rigibly dishonorable and dishonest. For even 
those he has ever had a heart full of pity. 

Despite the fact that "Bob" Taylor has been 
perrenially clothed with the honors that his state 
could give him, almost as rapidly as he grew up to 
fit them, he has been the foremost humorist of his 
region and one of the merriest in history. Withal, 
he has ever been serious about serious things and 
possessed of a soul of deep feeling. 

Reared amid the mountains of his native state, 
his nature has partaken of their loftiness and 

It is ever thus. Where Nature is rugged and pic- 
turesque, so are the people; where the climate is 
kind and hospitable, so are the people; where there 
is breadth, bravery, vigor and freedom in the hills, 
the streams, the forests and the winds, there, 
breadth, bravery, vigor and love of freedom are 
typical of the people. Give these men culture and 
they become the greatest of men in all the walks 
of life, other things being anywhere near equal. 


Robert Taylor, from childhood to manhood; 
from the barefoot boy with a "stone-bruise" to the 
senator with a bald head and a toga; from the 
cabin to the capitol, has been fair and square, 
all the time, and filled with honor and eloquence, 
patriotism and poetry, mirth and music, manliness 
and charity. He has been representative in Con- 
gress, governor of the state, whenever he wished 
to be, — having been three times elected to that 
office, once when his brother, Alfred A., was the 
candidate against him. Now he has been chosen 
by popular vote, ratified by the legislature of 
Tennessee, to be a senator of the United States, 
to take his seat on the 4th of March of this year. 

Senator Taylor is particularly gifted with the 
warm and flowery eloquence peculiar to Southern 
orators, but wit and jollity so pervade his nature 
that often in making a speech he will abruptly 
cut a well-rounded sentence with a flash of humor 
that explodes his audience. 

Once, for instance, in a speech where he hap- 
pened to mention "Mason and Dixon's line" — that 
now, thanks to the patriotism, gallantry and en- 
durance of the Spanish war soldiers, from North, 
South, East and West, has been obliterated — Gov- 
ernor Taylor said: 

"There it is, a great crimson scar of politics 
across the face of the grandest country that God 
ever made. There it is, and there it will remain, 
the dividing line between — cold bread and hot 

In a casual eulogy of his own state that he loves 
so much, speaking of her, allegorically, as a beau- 
tiful woman, he said: 

"There she rests, upon her verdant couch. At 
the west her dimpled feet bathed in the waters 
of the mighty Mississippi; at the east her glorious 
head pillowed upon the mountains — and there we 
have first-class mountains. Why, some of those 
mountains are so high that a tall man can stand 
on the tip top of a lofty peak and tickle the feet 
of the angels." 


It was in the 1870's, after being educated at 
Pennington, New Jersey, that Mr. Taylor began 
the practice of law in a small town of Tennessee. 
It is said that his first case was the defense of a 
negro who was accused of some petty crime. 

"I was young and mighty self-important," he 
said, "and I conducted that case with what I con- 
sidered to be masterful and consummate ability. 
I made a speech that I thought would have cleared 
a much guiltier man, then left the matter with 
+v e court and went home to dinner. We had din- 
ger there at the sensible hour of 12 o'clock, noon. 
After dinner, when I was on my way back to the 
courthouse, I met a yaller feller whom I had seen 
loafing about the courtroom, and I asked him if 
the jury had come in. He replied: 

"Ya-as, suh, de jury's done come in." 

"What did the jury do?" I asked. His reply 
gave me to understand the worst. 

"Marse Bob," he said, "dat jury's done gone 

"I knew that when a jury went 'dimmercratic,' 
in a negro case, in that part of Tennessee, that the 
lawyer for the defense had as well take up an- 
other piece of business." 

In 1878, the same year that he was admitted to 
practice law, Mr. Taylor was married to Miss 
Sarah L. Baird of Asheville, North Carolina. It 
is told of him that while he was courting the 
young lady she exacted of him a promise that he 
would never drink intoxicants, and this does not 
imply that he had ever misused liquor. Indeed, 
he has always been a reasonably abstemious man. 
The lady's request was simply a solicitous pre- 
caution, natural enough in that day and region. 

Some months after the two were married, Mr. 
Taylor went home rather late one night and as he 
entered the apartments where his wife was, the 
odor of "Old Robertson County" went in with him. 

Mrs. Taylor asked what time it was, and the 
coming governor replied that it was just 12. In- 


stantly and in an unnecessarily hilarious manner, 
a clock in another room struck "three." 

The young wife began to cry and the young 
husband tried to comfort her. 

"What's the matter, honey?" he asked. "Why 
do you cry?" 

"After many endearments the little woman at 
last was brought to say, between sobs. "Oh! I've 
caught you in a story." 

Then with artful ingenuity and well-feigned 
weeping, the husband turned away and bent his 
head over a chair in awful sobs. 

It was now the tender-hearted young wife's 
turn to do some comforting. 

"Why, what is the matter, sweetheart? What 
are you crying about, dear?" she sweetly begged. 

The young scamp, amid sobs that were nearly 
choked with suppressed laughter, blubbered out: 

"I'm broken-hearted! Oh, I'm broken-hearted. 
Just to think that my own little wife believes a 
blamed old two-dollar and a half clock before she 
believes me." 

During his several gubernatorial terms Gover- 
nor Taylor pardoned such a large number of con- 
victs from the penitentiary that the fact was 
taken by those who opposed him politically as 
ammunition in election battles against him. But 
it was always shown that the records in each case 
had been carefully examined by the governor him- 
self, and that the pardons were just and really 
conducive of public good. 

It is told that once when an acquaintance ac- 
cidentally jostled against Governor Taylor in the 
street, he lifted his hat with becoming politeness 
and said, "Please pardon me, Governor," the kindly 
executive, happening to be in a state of abstrac- 
tion, looked at his friend somewhat absently for 
a moment and then replied, "All right, Jim. But 
what are you in for?" 

However, it must be admitted, that it was often 
a consolation to Governor Taylor, in the exercise 


of the pardoning power, that "the quality of mercy 
is not strained." 

The two following instances of his use of the 
prerogative mentioned are eminently character- 
istic of the man. One involves pathos and the 
other humor. Of the first Governor Taylor says: 

"One bright morning, just before Christmas 
day, an official stood in the executive chamber, in 
my presence as governor of Tennessee, and said 
'Governor, I have been implored by a poor, miser- 
able wretch in the penintentiary to bring you this 
rude fiddle. It was made by his own hand with 
a penknife during the hours allotted to him for 
rest. It is absolutely valueless, it is true, but it 
is his petition to you for mercy. He begged me to 
say that he has neither attorneys nor influential 
friends to plead for him; that he is poor, and all 
he asks is that when the governor shall sit at his 
own happy fireside on Christmas eve, with his 
own happy children around him, he will play one 
tune on this rough fiddle and think of a cabin 
far away in the mountains whose hearthstone is 
cold and desolate and surrounded by a family of 
poor little ragged and wretched children, crying 
for bread and waiting and listening for the foot- 
steps of their father.' 

"Who would not have been touched by such an 
appeal? The record was examined: Christmas 
eve came; the governor sat that night at his own 
happy fireside, surrounded by his own happy 
children; and he played one tune to them on that 
rough fiddle. The hearthstone of the cabin in the 
mountains was bright and warm; a pardoned 
prisoner sat with his baby on his knee, surround- 
ed by his rejoicing children and in the presence 
of his happy wife, and although there was naught 
but poverty around him, his heart sang: 'Be it 
ever so humble, there's no place like home,' and 
then he reached up and snatched his fiddle down 
from the wall and played: 'Jordan is a hard road 
to travel.' " 

During the last year of Governor Taylor's in- 
cumbency of the gubernatorial chair of Tennes- 



'"Marse Bob, we'se out er meet ergin. 


see an ancient black mammy came in one day to 
beg the governor to pardon her old husband. 

"Marse Bob," she said, "I wish you'd pardon 
dat ole nigger Jim outen de pen. Dey's got him 
down dar en he ain' no good nowhar, en we needs 
him at home." 

"Can't do it, Aunt Hannah," the governor said. 
"The newspapers are roasting me to a turn, now, 
for pardoning so many convicts, and — " 

"Laws bress yo' life, Marse Bob," the old woman 
pleadingly interposed, "I wish you would, Marse 
Bob. I'se toted you in my arms when you wuzzen 
no bigger dan a minnit — deys jes' got dat ole nig- 
ger in dar en he ain' no good for nuffin, an' — -" 

"What's he in for, Aunt Hannah?" the governor 

"Jis fur one po' little ole ham, Marse Bob. We 
wuz outen meat, an' Jim he jes went down to Mr. 
Smif's smokehouse, he did, an' tuck one po' 
little ole ham, an' dey tuck him up fur 
dat an' put 'im down dar in de pen, an' he 
ain' no good fur nuffin nowhar. We needs him 
at home, Marse Bob, an' I wish — " 

"If he is so onery and useless, Aunt Hannah, 
what do you want him out for?" 

"W'y, laws bress yo' life, Marse Bob, we'se out 
er meat ergin!" 

The governor pardoned Jim. 

Frequently the identity of Ex-Governor Taylor 
of Tennessee is confused, by strangers to both, 
with that of Ex-Governor Taylor of Kentucky, who 
was so unfortunate as to have been involved in 
the circumstances associated with the assassina- 
tion of Governor Goebel. Illustration of this comes 
in the following incident that lately occurred in 

Colonel Blank of Chicago, who is a Southerner 
by birth and breeding, has a distinct and undy- 
ing admiration for Ex-Governor "Bob" Taylor of 
Tennessee, who is now in the act of taking his 
seat as senator from his state in place of the pres- 
ent wearer of the toga, Senator Carmack. Colo- 


nel Blank, who prides himself upon his family, 
has no family, but is an unmarried man and has 
apartments in the home of a friend on Jackson 
boulevard, and in one of his rooms he has a life- 
size bust portrait of Tennessee's favorite son. 

The gentleman who owns the home where 
Colonel Blank lives is much away from the city at- 
tending to his commercial interests, and Colonel 
Blank has several times observed that when his 
landlord and friend has returned from one of his 
tours he looks askant at the portrait of Taylor. 
One day, not long ago, Blank said to him: "Have 
you any fault in your mind against that picture?" 

"It is a very fine painting, I understand," said 
the man of the house, "and by a great artist, I am 
told. But to be candid with you, Colonel, I do 
somewhat object to having it hung upon the walls 
of my house the portrait of a man who is accused 
of having been in the conspiracy to assassinate 
the governor of Kentucky, a state that I very 
much admire and whose people are my sort of 

This gave the Colonel his opportunity, and he 
launched forth in a torrent of eloquence in eulogy 
of Taylor of Tennessee, altogether another man 
from Taylor of Kentucky, who, justly or unjustly, 
has been made a fugitive from the state of which 
he was governor and for whom the mayor of 
Indianapolis is said to have refused an offer of 
$25,000 if he would suffer the refugee to be kid- 

The man of the house was much relieved by 
Colonel Blank's explanation, and the face of genial 
"Bob" Taylor serenely continues to look down up- 
on the household, and the kindly countenance has 
a new and different interest to all except the col- 
onel, whose admiration has always been too great 
for improvement. 

Aside from his good works as a patriot in pow- 
er, as a charitable citizen, as a companionable 
gentleman, as a friend and neighbor, "Bob" Tay- 
lor, through his lectures on "The Fiddle and the 


Bow," "The Paradise of Fools," "Visions and 
Dreams," etc., has carried delight to thousands 
of souls, in hundreds of great audiences, all over 
this republic, and parts of New Jersey. Mr. De- 
Long Rice, who compiled the lectures and print- 
ted them in a book, has said with exact truth: 

"In the dialect of his characters, the melody of 
his songs and originality of his quaint conceptions, 
Governor Taylor's lectures are temples of thought 
lighted with windows of fun." 

In his lectures Governor Taylor rambles about 
amid charming philosophies of life, told in remi- 
niscent anecdote and pointed phraseology. His 
stories always point a moral and he is ever elo- 
quent in humor and pathos, wisdom and senti- 

In "Visions and Dreams" he tells much of the 
motive of his political career and in the quaintest 
way. He says: 

"There under the shade of the sycamores, on my 
father's old farm, I used to dream of the years to 
come. I looked through a vista blooming with 
pleasures, fruiting with achievements, and beau- 
tiful as the cloud-isles of the sunset. The siren, 
ambition, sat beside me and fired my young heart 
with her prophetic song. She dazzled me, and 
charmed me, and soothed me, into sweet fantastic 
reveries. She touched me and bade me look into 
the wondrous future. The bow of promise 
spanned it. Hope was enthroned there and smiled 
like an angel of light. Under that shining arch 
lay the goal of my fondest aspirations. Visions 
of wealth, and of laurels, and of applauding thous- 
ands, crowded the horizon of my dream. I saw 
the capitol of the republic, that white-columned 
pantheon of liberty, lifting its magnificent pile 
from the midst of the palaces, and parks, the stat- 
ues, and monuments, of the most beautiful city 
in the world. Infatuated with this vision of earth- 
ly glory, I bade adieu to home and its dreams, 
seized the standard of a great political party, and 
rushed into the turmoil and tumult of the heated 


campaign. Unable to bear the armor of a Saul, 
I went forth to do battle wth a fiddle, a pair of 
saddlebags, a plug horse, and the eternal truth. 
There was the din of conflict by day on the hust- 
ings; there was the sound of revelry by night in 
the cabins. The midnight stars twinkled to the 
music of the merry fiddle, and the hills resound- 
ed with the clatter of dwindling shoe soles, as the 
mountain lads and lassies danced the hours away 
in the good old time Virginia reel. I rode among 
the mountain fastnesses like the "Knight of the 
woeful figure," mounted on my prancing "Rozen- 
ante," everywhere charging the windmill of the 
opposing party, and wherever I drew rein the 
mountaineers swarmed from far and near to wit- 
ness the bloodless battle of the contending candi- 
dates in the arena of joint discussion. My learned 
competitor, bearing the shield of "protection to 
American labor," and armed to the teeth with 
mighty argument, hurled himself upon me with 
the fury of a lion. His blows descended like 
thunder-bolts, and the welkin rang with cheers 
when his lance went shivering to the center. His 
logic was appalling, his imagery was sublime. His 
tropes and similes flashed like the drawn blades 
of charging cavalry, and with a flourish of trum- 
pets, his grand effort culminated in a splendid trib- 
ute to the republic, crowned with Goldsmith's 
beautiful metaphor: 

" 'As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form, 
Swells from the vale and midway leaves the storm; 
Though 'round its breast the rolling clouds are 

Eternal sunshine settles on its head.' 

"I received the charge of the enemy 'with poised 
lance, and visor down.' I deluged the tall cliff 
under a flood of fountain eloquence, which 
poured from my patriotic lips like molasses 
pouring from the bung-hole of the uni- 
verse. I mounted the American eagle and soared 
among the stars. I scraped the skies and cut the 
black illimitable far out beyond the orbit of 


Uranus, and I reached the climax of my trium- 
phant flight with a hyperbole that eclipsed Gold- 
smith's metaphor, unthroned the foe, and left him 
stunned upon the field. Thus I soared: 

" 'I stood upon the sea shore, and with a frail 
reed in my hand, I wrote in the sand, "My coun- 
try, I love thee;" a mad wave came rushing by 
' and wiped out the fair impression. Cruel wave, 
treacherous sand, frail reed; I said, "I hate ye, 
I'll trust ye no more, but with a giant's arm, I'll 
reach to the coast of Norway, and pluck its tallest 
pine, and dip it in the crater of Vesuvius, and 
write upon the burnished heavens, "My country,. 
I love thee!" And I'd like to see any durned 
wave rub that out ! ! ! ' 

"Between the long intervals of argument my 
speech grinned with anecdotes like a basketful of 
'possum heads. The fiddle played its part, the 
people did the rest, and I carved upon the tomb- 
stone of the demolished knight these tender 

" 'Tread softly round this sacred heap, 
It guards ambition's restless sleep; 
Whose greed for place ne'er did forsake bim, 
Don't mention office, or you'll wake him.' 
"I reached the goal of my visions and dreams 
under that colossal dome whose splendors are 
shadowed in the broad river that flows by the 
shrine of Mt. Vernon. I sat amid the confusion 
and uproar of the parliamentary struggles of the 
lower branch of the Congress of the United States. 
'Sunset' Cox, wth his beams of wit and humor, 
convulsed the house and shook the galleries. 
Alexander Stephens, one of the last tottering 
monuments of the glory of the Old South, still 
lingered on the floor, where, in by-gone years, the 
battles of his vigorous manhood were fought. I 
saw in the senate an assemblage of the grandest 
men since the days of Webster and Clay. Conk- 
ling, the intellectual Titan, the Apollo of manly 
form and grace, thundered there. The 'Plumed 
Knight,' that grand incarnation of mind and mag- 



Tickling the feet of the angels. 


netism, was at the zenith of his glory. Edmunds, 
and Zack Chandler, and the brilliant and learned 
jurist, Mat Carpenter, were there. Thurman, the 
'noblest Roman of them all,' was there with his 
famous bandana handkerchief. The immortal 
Ben Hill, the idol of the South, and Lamar, the 
gifted orator and highest type of Southern chiv- 
alry, were there. Garland, and Morgan, and Har- 
ris, and Coke, were there; and Beck, with his 
sledge-hammer and intellect It was an arena of 
opposing gladiators more magnificent and majestic 
than was ever witnessed in the palmiest days of 
the Roman Empire. There were giants iii the 
Senate in those days, and when they clashed 
shields and measured swords in debate, the cap- 
itol trembled and the nation thrilled in every 

"But how like the ocean's ebb and flow are the 
restless tides of politics! These scenes of grand- 
eur and glory soon dissolved from my view like 
a dream. I 'saved my country' for only two short 
years. My competitor proved a lively corpse. He 
burst forth from the tomb Ike a locust from its 
shell, and came buzzing to the national capitol 
with 'war on his wings.' I went buzzing back to 
the mountains to dream as:ain under the syca- 
mores; and there a new ambition was kindled in 
my soul. A new vision opened before me. I saw 
another capitol rise on the banks of the Cumber- 
land, overshadowing the tomb of Polk and close 
by the Hermitage where reposes the sacred dust 
of Andrew Jackson. And I thought if I could 
only reach the exalted position of governor of the 
old 'Volunteer State' I would then have gained 
the sum of life's honors and happiness. But lo! 
another son of my father and mother was dream- 
ing there under the same old sycamore. We had 
dreamed together in the same trundle-bed and 
often kicked. each other out. Together we had seen 
visions of pumpkin pie and pulled hair for the 
biggest slice. Together we had smoked the first 
cigar and together learned to play the fiddle. But 


now the dreams of our manhood clashed. Re- 
lentless fate had decreed that 'York' must con- 
tend with 'Lancaster' in the 'War of the Roses.' 
And with flushed cheeks and throbbing hearts we 
eagerly entered the field; his shield bearing the 
red rose, mine the white. It was a contest of 
principles, free from the wormwood and gall of 
personalities, and when the multitude of partisans 
gathered at the hustings a white rose on every 
Democratic bosom, a red rose on every Repub- 
lican breast, in the midst of a wilderness of 
flowers, there was many a tilt and many a loud 
huzzah. But when the clouds of war had cleared 
away, I looked upon the drooping red rose on the 
bosom of the vanquished knight, and thought of 
the first speech my mother ever taught me: 

'Man's a vapor, full of woes, 
Cuts a caper — down he goes!' 

"The white rose triumphed. But the shadow is 
fairer than the substance. The pathway of ambi- 
tion is marked at every mile with the grave of 
some sweet pleasure slain by the hand of sacrifice. 
It bristles with thorns planted by the fingers of 
envy and hate, and as we climb the rugged 
heights, behind us lie our bloody foot-prints, 
before us tower still greater heights, scarred 
by tempests and wrapped in eternal snow. 
Like the edelwiess of the Alps, ambition's 
pleasures bloom in the chill air of per- 
petual frost, and he who reaches the summit will 
look down with longing eyes on the humbler plane 
of life below and wish his feet had never wan- 
dered from its warmer sunshine and sweeter flow- 

Concerning the "old field school" Taylor says: 
"The curriculum was the same everywhere — one 
Webster's blue-backed, elementary spelling book, 
one thumb-paper, one stone-bruise, one sore toe, 
Peter Parley's Travels." 

Speaking of the grim old teacher, Taylor tells 
that once, when the school commissioners were 
making an official visit, he heard them question 


the ancient pedagogue as to his system for teach- 
ing geography. They desired to learn whether 
he taught that the world was round or flat. The 
teacher replied with somewhat haughty dignity: 

"That depends upon whar I'm teachin'. Ef my 
patrons desire me to teach the round system, I 
teach it; if they desire me to teach the flat sys- 
tem, I teach that." 

Senator Taylor is passionately fond of music, 
and of his favorite instrument he has said: 

"The violin is the poet laureate of music; violin 
of the virtuoso and master, fiddle of the untutored 
in the ideal art. It is the aristocrat of the palace 
and the hall; it is the democrat of the unpre- 
tentious home and the humble cabin. As violin 
it weaves its garlands of roses and carmelias; as 
fiddle it scatters its modest violets. It is ad- 
mired by the cultured for its magnificent powers 
and wonderful creations; it is loved by the mil- 
lions for its simple melodies." 

The following verses by this writer were in- 
scribed some years ago to Governor Taylor, and 
in a simple way they tell their own story: 


'Mid the silken perfumed elegance 

Within a stately house, 
I've heard its rich tones ringing 

Through the wilderings of Strauss, 
And I've heard the sigh of gentle ones 

Who listened while it bore 
To charmed hearts the sweetness 

Of the touching Trovatore. 

I've heard it in the evening, 

Within a quiet home, 
Sing "Swanee River" till the bees 

Came humming 'round the comb; 
'Mid the phases of the wassail, 

And the joys of festal cheer, 
I've heard it change from grave to gay, 

From lively to severe. 


In tender tones of pleading, 

In sighs of spent delight, 
In greetings to the morning, 

And in good-byes to the night; 
In storms upon the ocean, 

And in the songs of birds, 
I've heard its voice, like living thing, 

In sweetest human words. 

I've heard it give, stentorian, 

Command in battle's blare, 
And heard it whisper soft and low, 

Like angels in the air. 
'Mong brawny men, in mining camps, 

I've seen it hush a brawl, 
Till clenched hands are open palms. 

That in each other fall. 

I've seen it gather little ones 

About the player's knee, 
As did the babes of olden time 

'Round Him of Galilee 
And to it oft I've listened 

Till all the world was kin, 
While, lovingly, its master played 

The Governor's Violin. 




The Michigan Baed. 

Where the forest growth was great and its foli- 
age luxuriant; where the streams were deep and 
sleepy or rugged and tumbling; where were ex- 
alted bluffs that defied the heaviest storms of a 
mighty inland sea; where summer dwelt proudly 
and winter reigned with mailed hand; where the 
breezes came softly and the wind harp sang its 
tenderest melodies and where its strings were 
swept by the wildest wails of the maddest night; 
where all nature was kindliest and fiercest, be- 
times, Ben King was born just half a century ago, 
on the bluffs, in the woods, near the town and in 

King's father was the owner of a general store 
that was only big enough to be quite important 
in the vilage, and Ben had a brother. 

For a time, in his youth, it was thought by 
those about him that Ben was going to amount to 
something, for he took to the store and could sell 
things, and add up columns of figures, and answer 
nearly all the calls of a counter-boy. 

But one day when Ben was seventeen or so, he 
fell ill. He had, with all the other phases of his 
malady, a brain fever, and when he came out of 
his sick room a cadaverous convalescent, he had 
lost all knowledge of "figgers" and had no dis- 
position, ever afterward, to "stand in the store." 
But his head was turned to music and he took to 
writing poetry. 

"Good-bye Ben King!" was what they said. Now 
he could never amount to anything. 

But there was consolation in the brother. He 
was a "born merchant," and he was going to make 
his mark. 


Poor fellow! he filled well his place, so long as 
he lived. He was all that was expected of him. 
But he died in a few years and the hope of the 

family was gone. His name was and 

is known to the readers of Ben King's biographies 
because he was Ben's brother. 

"Where the woods and streams and the flowers 
and the foliage are, and where the storms and 
the calms come and go, and where all else is that 
makes Nature glorious to her lover, — those are 
good places to gather the silken skeins of poetry, 
but one must go to the city to sell the woven 

Ben King went to the great city, but he had to 
keep in touch with St. Joe, for he had naturally 
got a sweetheart there — Aseneth Belle Latham — 
and he had made her his wife. Moreover, he had 
accumulated the further responsibility of two 
baby boys — Bennett Latham King and Spencer P. 
King. Thus he lived much in the city and a little 
over yonder across the lake. But that is farther 
than one can see. Indeed there is quite a time, 
while you are crossing, that you cannot see land 
in any direction. 

Poetry is one of the most unmarketable articles 
in all the booths of Vanity Fair, and Ben King 
could not sell enough poetry to see his way home, 
very often. However, he took to selling pianos 
on commission. Now and then he sold one; now 
and then he sold a poem; now and then he did a 
"stunt" in a "paid" entertainment. 

Things grew better, now and then, and King 

His music on the piano was not "high art." It 
was the breeze and the shower, the bud and the 
bloom-burst of genius. 

His poetry was not the exalted and imposing 
grandeur of epic strength, that panoramaed in 
classic procession. It was the spray of the foun- 
tain, the babble of the brook, the smile of nature, 
the roaring laugh of homely life, the quip of good- 
fellowship, the badinage of the breezy, and it 


rocked in its rhythm with the easy gait of a 

His "stunts" — he simply sat at the piano and 
did them, and he got up and did them. He con- 
tinually sprung surprises, and he grew to be the 
most unique entertainer that ever bowed, with 
charming awkwardness, to an audience. 

Then he died! 

Just as the trail that he had blazed toward 
fame and fortune was reaching the wide and 
easy alameda, he died. 

Oh! what a pity that was. King would have 
been such a prince, in great success. He would 
have been such a gratification to the hundreds who 
loved him and the thousands who would have 
loved him, and the big crowds that admired him. 

But there is a book of his verse that is grow- 
ing in vogue, and will continue to grow. In com- 
pound increase it will go into the hands and 
hearts of the mighty multitude "that knows a 
good thing when it sees it," and of a verity Ben 
King's verse is a good thing. 

But the way he did things, right before your 
face, to make you laugh in \he most gurgling and 
satisfactory way — for now and then there was a 
touch of something deeply tender to leaven your 
mirth! Oh! the way he did that, can never be 
known to others than those who were there. 
That has gone and the memory of it will go with 
Ben King's generation. 

King was traveling with Opie Read in the 
South. The two were giving readings from their 
own literary work and King was also doing his 
piano divertisements, under the direction of a 
lyceum bureau. At Bowling Green, Kentucky, the 
two had made the best part of the townspeople 
particularly happy on the evening of April the 
16th, 1894. That people had heard "Old Kentucky 
Home" sung and played in every conceivable way, 
from the plunking banjo accompaniment with 
the minor notes of a. home negro, to the trained 

166 TEN WI 8 E MEN 

and perfect harmonies of a grand orchestra with 
the voice of a prima donna. But Ben King played 
the song that night, on the piano, with the inter- 
pretation of his own lawless genius, and the 
house arose, en masse, waved dainty handker- 
chiefs and portmanteau shaped umbrellas, 
"tossed high their ready caps" — and slouch hats 
and silk tiles — "in air," shouted, cheered, and 
"made the rafters ring," in wild and continued 
applause. King played the piece over, and over 

It was the first outburst that King had ever 
seen of real promise of a limitless success. 

The two were lionized, almost canonized, in a 
reception after the entertainment. They were to 
leave early the next morning for the next "stand." 
When the time came for the twain to prepare 
for departure it was found that King had gone 
beyond the call, except that of the archangel. 

In a little sketch by Read at the beginning of 
Ben King's book of verse, he has hinted of that 
morning in Kentucky. Read was stunned by the 
event and he tenderly approaches it in this way: 
"How odd a boy he was — no one understood 
him. On the edge of the marsh he would sit 
during hours at a time, under the spell of the 
weird music amid the rushes. As he grew up, 
lacking the instincts that make men successful in 
business, he was pronounced a failure — not by 
those who had warmed themselves in the glow 
of his poetic nature, but by the man who believed 
that to turn over a dime and thereby to make a 
dollar of it was the most gracious faculty that 
could be bestowed upon a member of the human 
family. But when Ben King died, St. Joseph 
became more widely known in one day than 
hundreds of excursions and a thousand orchards 
had served to advertise it in the past. On that 
April morning, people living in the far East and 
the far West asked the question: 'Where is St. 


"Ben King was not only a man of music; lie was 
a poet, a gentle satirist, and a humorist of the 
highest order. Every company was brightened by 
his coming, every man felt better for having 
heard his quaint remarks. There was about him 
a droll, a charming irresponsibility — a Thomas 
Hood from Michigan. 

"I find, as I have found for the fiftieth time 
while striving to write these lines, that I am still 
too much under the shock caused by his death to 
write dispassionately of him. My judgment, the 
common sense that one should bring to bear upon 
such a subject, is obscured by the vivid picture of 
an early morning; and down a dark hallway I 
still hear a violent knocking — and then comes a 
throbbing silence, and out of that silence comes 
an excited whisper — 'Ben King is dead.' " 

And John McGovern, a wise and learned phil- 
osopher, a true poet, a great architect of real 
drama, a deep and wide observer, a keen and 
incisive writer, a man with a mighty soul, has 
also written of Ben King, in ah. introductory to 
the book of verse. What was to have been said 
of the quaint and merry minstrel could not have 
been better said, so briefly. This is it: 

"So far as we know, this young man, now so 
suddenly dead, was the drollest mimic and 
gentlest humorist of our region. He existed as 
the welcome and mirthful shadow of conventional 
and tiresome things. 

"He began as the expositor of 'The Maiden's 
Prayer' on the piano, where each accented note 
was flat or sharp, and the music flowed rapidly, 
or over great difficulties, as the score might 
determine. He arose, and looking half-witted, 
recited with unapproachable modesty the stam- 
mering delight which he would feel 'if he could 
be by Her!' He frowsled his hair and 
became Paderewski, who forthwith fell upon the 
piano tooth and nail, tore up the track, derailed 
the symphony, went down stairs and shook the 
furnace, fainted at the pedals, and was carried 
out rigid by supers — the greatest pianist of any 




age. He wrote 'If I should Die To-night' — a 
parody that was accepted as the true original, 
the sun, the center of the great If-I-should-die-to- 
night system of thought and poetry. He wrote 
the Poet's Lament — that there was nothing to eat 
but food, and nowhere to come but off. The 
artists of the newspaper world generously sprang 
to his side; they placed him pictorially before the 
people, and determined, with almost prophetic 
spirit, that our small circle should not alone dwell 
with undiminishing laughter upon the gambols of 
Ben King. He was coldly, then not coldly, then 
warmly received by the church fairs, the clubs, 
and the Elks, where he got a supper — if any were 
left. At last he charged a small sum for appear- 
ing publicly, and this sum was rapidly enlarging 
and his fortune was in sight, when the hotel 
porter found him dead in his room at Bowling 
Green, Kentucky. 

"During the years we knew him, he never spoke 
to us in a disparaging way concerning any other 
person, and unless Paderewski's comb might have 
been ruffled by Ben's exhibition of hair and haste 
in piano-playing, no parody, or perk, or prank of 
Ben King ever depended for its success upon the 
wounding of another creature's feelings. 

"We all accounted him a genius and while we 
could not guess what he would do next, we 
awaited his performances with complacence, 
laughing as if we owned him and had ourselves 
ordered his latest jeu d'esprit. 

"We deplored the untimely moment of his end; 
we held beautiful, solemn and impressive memorial 
services over his body, with music by the sweet 
singers whom he had loved when he was alive, and 
touching words by ministers of the gospel; we 
buried him affectionately, as one who could least 
be spared from -our circle; and as we were the 
witnesses of what he did, we now charge ourselves 
to be the testimonies of his rare talents." 

Col. Will S. Hays, when he was only a captain 
— of a steamboat — (he's a Kentucky colonel now) 


took Stephen C. Foster, the song-writer, with him 
as his guest down to New Orleans on the steamer 
that Hays commanded. Hays had for many years 
been the steamboat editor — "River Editor" was 
the title — of Harney's Louisville Democrat and he 
had written many songs that became so popular 
that some of them became excruciating through 
being loaded into hand-organs and otner instru- 
ments of public torture. However, the songs of 
Hays were delicious before they were brutalized 
as indicated. But the hand-organs and other in- 
struments of public torture do not have tnem any 
more, and as Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes has said : 
"Silence like a poultice comes to heal the blows of 
sound," so far as the organized songs are con- 
cerned, and Hays' songs are all a sweet memory 
among "The songs we used to sing." 

Foster had written "Swanee River," 'Massa's in 
de Cold, Cold Ground," "Old Kentucky Home," 
and hundreds of other plantation melodies before 
he had ever seen a Southern plantation or a 
negro slave. After Captain Hays had taken him 
"down the river" and had shown him the things 
he had written about, he went back to his North- 
ern home and never afterward wrote a plantation 
song. Perhaps he had already written all the 
songs that were in him, about darkies and planta- 
tions, or it might have been that seeing the real 
thing took the inspiration away from him, there is 
no telling now. But of one thing it is certain 
that while Foster's songs, of the sort alluded to, 
are among the sweetest of all folklore songs, and 
that many of them are yet wonderfully popular, 
and more so in the South than elsewhere, it is a 
fact that the singer often used words in his songs 
that never did belong to the patois, dialect, or 
whatever you may call it, of the slave negroes of 
the Southern States " 'fo' de waugh." 

Ben King wrote a great deal of negro dialect 
before he had ever been south of "Mason and 
Dixon's line," but for some occult reason he was 
always correct in the manner of darky colloquial- 
isms. This was another of his strange gifts. In- 


deed, King was correct in all the dialects that he 
esayed, and they were many. 

Of course it is paradoxical to speak of correct- 
ness in any dialect, for incorrectness is what 
makes dialects. Yet there is a way of writing 
them "to the manner born." That was what 
King did, and it was a gift. Everything King 
could do was a gift. He never studied anything, 
nor practiced. The things that he could do he just 
did. And they were many, as poet and pianist. 
He wrote or improvised something and at the first 
opportunity he recited or played it. But he never 
made a speech about it. He couldn't. Doubtless 
he thought it was not worth while — if he thought 
at all about it — and, generally, it isn't worth 
while. Audiences, for the most part, do not care 
for why a poet wrote a poem, unless they are more 
interested in the poet than the poem. In that 
event it is best to make a speech and not recite 
the poem. 

As to Ben King's personality: He was peculiar 
in many ways. 

Those who remember him imitating Pade- 
rewski's hair, probably carried away the impres- 
sion that King was slouchy in habit. The fact is 
that he generally wore a silk hat and kid gloves 
and dressed to them. At any rate he was about 
the best dressed man in his circle. 

And King had curious ways: 

He came into the Press Club of Chicago one 
evening, shortly after his arrival from St. Joseph. 
Boiling Arthur Johnson, who is all the time "dis- 
covering" somebody, had "discovered" King and 
he brought the man there to "show him off." 
King instantly and distinctly won everybody pres- 
ent, and the occasion was something of a function. 

Then King stayed there — and at the Whitechapel 
Club. For years he was not a member of the 
Press Club, but he "belonged" just the same. 
Then it was suggested that he should be elected 
to membership without payment of the usual fee. 
Thus he became enrolled. 
Previously King had been at the beck and call 



of the club, in the matter of helping on the enter- 
tainment programs. Besides, he would do his 
wonderful things on the piano for anyone that 
asked him, freely and always pleasingly, to a 
charming degree. 

After he became an enrolled member he 
changed, utterly. He would not allow his name to 
go on any program, in the club, and- he would not 
do any of his "stunts" for anybody there, under 
any circumstances. 

Finally a bill for club dues was presented him. 
This he failed to pay and in due course was 
"suspended" and "dropped." But he stayed on 
and at once renewed his "stunts," as frequently, 
complacently and obligingly as before, and noth- 
ing was ever said to him again about membership 

He was simply "a matter of course," to all 
others — and himself. 

Withal, King was neither "close" nor impecuni- 
ous. He did not seem to be able to harmonize the 
payment of club dues, with being "the life of the 
company." He never made any remarks on the 
subject, but it looked as if he felt that his dignity 
as a club member did not comport with doing 
"stunts." At any rate that was the way he acted 
about it and his silent dictum was accepted, 

Beside all other captivating things that King 
did that night at Bowling Green, he recited his 
verses entitled: "If I Should Die To-night," and 
the audience fairly roared with the humor of the 
lines and King's delicious manner of reading them. 
Here are the words of the verses: 

"If I should die to-night, 

And you should come to my cold corpse and say, 

Weeping and heartsick o'er my lifeless clay — 

If I should die to-night, 
And you should come in deepest grief and woe — - 
And say: 'Here's that ten dollars that I owe,' 

I might arise in my large white cravat 

And say: 'What's that?' 

174 TEN WI 8 E M EN 

"If I should die to-night 

And you should come to n^ cold corpse and 

Clasping my bier to show the grief you feel — 

I say, if I should die to-night 
And you should come to me, and there and then 
Just even hint 'bout payin' me that ten, 

I might arise the while, 

But I'd drop dead again." 

Dr. Hugh Blake Williams, an eminent physician 
and surgeon of Chicago, was exceeding fond of 
Ben King and delighted in his eccentricities of pen 
and character. Dr. Williams is a charming poet 
and humorist, withal, but he holds somewhat in 
abeyance his own accomplishments as versifier 
and wit in business deference to his profession. 
Frequently, however, he indulges in reminiscent 
stories of King, one of which is this: 

"Ben came to me one day complaining of being 
much out of sorts. 

"'Where?' I inquired. 

" 'Right here in Chicago,' he replied. 

"'But where are you suffering, Ben?' 

" 'Everywhere — I can't go anywhere that I don't 

" 'Now, see here, Ben, quit your idiotic foolish- 
ness and tell me what part of your body you are 
suffering in.' 

" 'Lord Bless you, Doctor, I'm not suffering in 
my body, at all. It's my spirit.' 

" 'What's the matter with your spirit?' 

" 'Well, just between you and me, Doc, the last 
lot of spirit I rasseled with had too much water 
in it, I think.' 

" 'Water on the brain is the trouble with you, 

" 'Well, maybe. I dunno. But I feel like weep- 
ing, a whole lot. That'll keep me from drowning, 
won't it?' 

"'Get out! I'm busy.' 


" 'I wouldn't have come here, Doc, if I hadn't 
expected to get out. But it's because you are so 
busy that I came. Charlie Perkins told me that 
you are working too hard, and Charlie's afraid of 
that — work.' 

'"Get out!' 

" 'Don't ferment, Doc. That's more work. Good- 
bye, Doc' 

"He went away with that awfully funny-serious 
look of his, and I never saw him again. He went 
South on that tour with Opie Read, and when he 
came back his spirit was not with him." 


Nothing to do but work, 
Nothing to eat but food, 
Nothing to wear but clothes, 
To keep one from going nude. 

Nothing to breathe but air, 
Quick as a flash 'tis gone, 
Nowhere to fall but off, 
Nowhere to stand but on. 

Nothing to comb but hair, 
Nowhere to sleep but in bed, 
Nothing to weep but tears, 
Nothing to bury but dead. 

Nothing to sing but songs, 
Ah well! alas! alack! 
Nowhere to go but out, 
Nowhere to come but back. 

Nothing to see but sights, 
Nothing to quench but thirst, 
Nothing to have but what we've got, 
Thus through life we are cursed. 

Nothing to strike but a gait, 
Everything moves that goes, 
Nothing at all but common sense, 
Can ever withstand these woes. 





Scintillating along the forty-odd years during 
which I met and meandered with the "Ten Wise 
Men" who dominate the preceding chapters in this 
book, were many other brilliant men who, in 
humorous writing, did things that were calculated 
to warm the heart and promote a healthy con- 
dition of the soul. Nearly every man of them 
wrote true poetry, also, betimes; many of them 
were my devoted friends, all of them pleasant 
acquaintances — else I should not presume to write 
of them, for I mortally fear to take liberties with 
unfamiliar persons, or at arm's length, and it 
would be dreadful, under such circumstances, to be 

Some of these have flashed like meteors from 
zenith to horizon, and some have, as 

"Yon bright and glorious blazonry of God, 
Glittered a while in their eternal depths, 
And like the Pleiad, lovliest of their train, 
Shot from their glorious spheres, and passed away 
To darkle in the trackless void." 

Some have deliberately retired from the field of 
humor to seek success in more serious paths; 
some have failed for lack of exploitation, or of 

And here are the youngsters, who at. this very 
day are cultivating their fame — many of them 
with enviable success — and it is eminently good to 
be one who raises smiles and laughter, even where 
smiles and laughter have bloomed and fruited be- 
fore. The world needs all it can get of jolly things. 
There will always be more than enough of the stuff 
that tests mental digestion and of that which lies 
heavy on the soul. 


Indeed, after all, these youngsters are the more 
important of the category. "Who's Who in the 
World" does not contain the names of other than 
the live ones. 


Of those who flashed was "Darby" Doyle. He 
was, in the late 60's, a reporter on the Louisville 
Courier, before the consolidation with the Journal. 
Doyle wrote the wittiest sort of things about the 
proceedings of the police court — the first man to 
enter that field of burlesque and ridicule — and he 
made the local columns of the Courier fairly glitter 
with his witticisms concerning social and munici- 
pal happenings. He also published a little book 
called "Tiltereena" that was mirthful concerning 
the tilting hoop-skirts, fashionable in those days. 
This brochure had a large sale throughout the 
country and it was a scream of fun. 

Doyle left newspaperdom to become a lieutenant 
in the regular army. In a short time after joining 
he provoked a fellow officer to a duel and was 
cashiered, or allowed to resign, and the last I saw 
or heard of him — which was more than thirty 
years ago — he was a clerk in the Second Auditor's 
office of the General Post Office at Washington. He 
is probably in a better place — where all good 
humorists should be heartily welcomed, on ac- 
count of missionary work here below. 


Why a man as respectable looking as was J. B. 
Johnson of the old Louisville Courier and a contem- 
porary of Doyle, shouid have been called "Jabe," 
is a problem that we need not take time to solve, 
as to quote "Mr. Toots," "It's of no consequence," 
anyhow. Johnson was an editorial writer, but he 
perpetrated much humor in newspaper sketches 
concerning political and domestic economies, over 


the nom-de-plume of "Yuba Dam," which was sug- 
gested to him by the name of a mining town in 
California, "in the days of old, and the days of 
gold, and the days of '49." He was quoted a great 
deal in the newspapers of his day, and beside his 
humor he wrote exquisite verses. One of his 
poems, entitled "Three Graves," was a perfect 
poem and contained a bit of pathos as pure and 
touching as has ever been written. It was of only 
three short stanzas and was elegiac to the death of 
his wife and two babes. Johnson died in 1870 in 
Lexington, Kentucky. 


Will S. Hays, who is casually mentioned else- 
where in these papers, was another of the poet- 
humorists of Louisville, and is yet, for that matter. 
He was "hand-in-glove" with every steamboat cap- 
tain, pilot, clerk and mate on the Ohio and Missis- 
sippi rivers and contributory streams, and was the 
""river-editor" of Harney's Daily Democrat in the 
days of the "palatial steamers" and was, for a 
time, captain of a boat named for him. He had a 
funny column in his department of that journal 
and was the toast of all riverdom. Besides tye 
wrote hundreds of popular songs — five hundred 
perhaps — among them, "Nora O'Neil," "The Wan- 
dering Refuge," "Evangeline," "Josephus Orange 
Blossom" and many others that raged epidemically 
throughout the land. 

Hays, who is now a Kentucky "Colonel" is a 
hale, hearty, white-haired and distingushed-look- 
ing, elderly gentleman of Louisville, a writer for 
the Courier- Journal and organist for one of the 
most prominent churches. 

Not long ago, when some important ceremony 
was pending the vestry asked Colonel Hays to 
give them on this great occasion the best thing 
he could do in the way of a "voluntary." 


"The remarkable music, 'My Alabama Coon,' " 
said Hays, "was running in my head. I pumped 
it out on that great organ, disguised with varia- 
tions and somewhat changed in tempo, and Oh! 
how it caught them. Many persons came to me 
after the service and congratulated me on having 
done the best thing of my life. I thought of 
hundreds of other things that I had done in the 
way of music, and I am not sure yet that the 
compliments fitted my feelings with the nicety of 
bark on a beech tree." 

A little while ago Hays was a visitor in Chi- 
cago, and while there he accompanied a friend to 
a great department store. The friend introduced 
Colonel Hays to a dapper salesman in the music- 
room as a writer of songs. 

"Did you ever write any colored songs?" the 
young man asked the white haired veteran. 

"No," the colonel replied. "No, not any colored 
songs. I have occasionally written a negro song." 

[Since these lines concerning Will S. Hays were 
written he has gone to that bourne where songs 
are being sung forever. 


Charles R. Luster was a young tramp-printer in 
1871, working on the newspapers of Kansas City 
as a compositor. He rarely made a remark and 
was not suspected of humor in any of its forms. 
One day he walked away from Kansas City and 
was next heard of setting type on a weekly at 
Brunswick, Missouri. Evidently he had wearied 
of metropolitan life and seemed to have sought the 
rural districts as a relief. But even there he was 
not often heard to say much beyond telling what 
he wanted at his meals. All of a sudden he took 
to setting up in type, at his cases, in the Bruns- 
wicker printing office, wonderfully funny and en- 
tertaining stories of every-day, domestic life. He 

180 TEN W I S E M EN 

startled the fun-loving element of the country and 
quickly won a national reputation as a humorist. 
The editor of one of the great dailies of St. Louis 
was so taken with the young printer's humorous 
work that he made haste to offer him a lucrative 
and high position on his paper. 

Luster, with his baggage in his pocket, took the 
next train for St. Louis and at the end of a day's 
travel found his way to the building in which the 
great newspaper was printed and published. Here 
he discovered that instead of setting his stories in 
type, "out of his head," that he would be expected 
to go into the editorial rooms, commit his stuff to 
manuscript and have others put it in type. With- 
out a word he sauntered back to the railway sta- 
tion and took the next train for Brunswick. There 
he worked for a short time again on the Bruns- 
wicker, married his boss's sister and was soon ap- 
pointed postmaster of Brunswick; distinctly and 
entirely he quit the printing business, all its 
associations, "pomps and vanities," and instead of 
distributing and disciplining type-metal letters he 
has only handled the letters of the post from that 
day to this. 

Indeed, Luster was funny in merely being alive 
and without saying a word on any subject. He was 
a good husband, father and neighbor, but it is 
questionable whether he ever cared what time it 
was, in the day, the week, the month, the year 
or the century, except in the matter of having his 
mail pouches ready in time for the out-going 


In 1872 during the time that this chronicler was 
city editor of the St. Joseph, Missouri, Herald, a 
boy who was working in a dry-goods "emporium" 
of that city, with no more intention of becoming a 
merchant than he had of becoming a gondolier in 
Venice, but who was only biding his time, fre- 


quently handed me a slip of paper with something 
that he had written on it and advising that it be 
printed in the newspaper in order to shine the old 
thing up a bit. These were, for the most part, 
verses, and occasionally an entertaining item of 
news, brightly written and often bubbling with 
humor. These bits were invariably printed in the 
newspaper at the proper time. Finally the youth 
confessed that his aim in life was to become a 
newspaper man. But he had yet a certain time 
to fill out with the dry-goods emporium. 

One day I asked him to come up to the Herald 
office that evening as the election returns would 
be coming in and he could help to do the figuring. 

He said: "I can't figure worth a cent, but I will 
bring up my rabbits. They beat any thing to 

He came, however, without the rabbits and did 
his first night's work on a newspaper. That was 
John J. Flinn, twice elected President of the Chi- 
cago Press Club and the latest ex-incumbent of 
that important place. 

Shortly after the incident of the "figures" it 
became necessary for me to go to Atchison, Kan- 
sas, to take part in the celebration of the com- 
pletion of the great railway bridge that had been 
constructed across the Missouri river at that point. 
Flinn went along to assist in reporting the affair. 
It was an important occasion. Orators from Mis- 
souri and Kansas were to speak and the governors 
of the two states were to shake hands, metaphor- 
ically, across the muddy chasm. Again I had been 
"made" a poet, for "this occasion only." I was to 
ride in the procession with the governors, wear 
labels and "read my piece," at the proper stage of 
the proceedings. Flinn was to take in the sit- 
uation, reportorially and generally, and I was to 
come down from the "high horse" and help him 
with the whole thing after the ceremonies on the 
orators' stand were over. 




Plinn went at the work with a zeal and earnest- 
ness that was admirable and somewhat imposing* 
It was his first real newspaper work. He was 
here, there and everywhere in the crowd, on that 
sweltering summer day, making notes of every- 
thing he saw bearing upon the situation. When 
the time came for the speech-making Flinn was 
on the platform benind the governors, and all that, 
w^th a pile of blank paper as wide as an atlas 
and thick as a dictionary, prepared to take down 
the speeches. The platform was large enough for 
a dozen political parties to stand on, and many 
other persons occupied it beside those who had 
business there. Flinn desired to have those know 
that he was a reporter. Nearly all young reporters 
are that way at first, but they quickly get over 
it. This young reporter — he was not twenty years 
old yet — sat there with his hands full of pencils, 
and some behind his ears, sharpened at both ends. 
He made hen-track hieroglyphics on that paper, 
conscious that the gang on the platform was 
watching him, and he was making as if he were 
taking those speeches in short-hand, when the 
truth was, that at that time, he was as innocent 
of short-hand as he was of Sanscrit. He made 
his point, however; he led those "rubes," who 
knew no more of stenography than he did, to 
believe that he was simply a record-breaker in 
the science. Between the two of us we got the 
manuscripts of the speeches after the exercises 
were over. Flinn also took the "poem" in "short- 
hand," though the thing itself was at that moment 
standing in cold type on a "galley" in the Herald 
office, and he knew it, for I read it from a proof 

Flinn worked for some months on the Herald, 
then went to St. Louis where he took a promi- 
nent place on the Globe-Democrat with J. T. Mc- 
Cullagh, famous as "Little Mack" in the field cor- 
respondence of the Civil War. 


About the year 1875 John J. Flinn went to Chi- 
cago and was of the original staff of the Chicago 
News out of which grew the Record which is now 
the great newspaper establishment known as the 

Flinn was the managing editor of the News and 
since his work there began, the story of his life 
is the story of a remarkable newspaper career. In 
it all he has written a world of the brightest hu- 
mor for which he has had little credit, as his 
humor nas been largely used in the impersonality 
of editorial articles and paragraphs. At this writ- 
ing Flinn is an editorial writer on the Chicago 
Inter-Ocean and is an Alderman of the flourishing 
city of Evanston, one of Chicago's finest suburban 
adjuncts. Men of the highest scholarship, and 
some of the brightest newspaper men of the country 
declare that John Flinn is as great an editorial 
writer as there is in the world, and his keen wit 
and bubbling humor, associated with much at- 
tainment in knowledge, an intuitive news sense 
and a long and varied experience in newspaper- 
dom, have made his success. 

Flinn was appointed United States consul to 
Chemnitz, Saxony, in 1882, by President Arthur, 
and for some years after his return to America 
he owned and conducted in Chicago a brilliant 
periodical called "The Observer." During the 
Columbian Exposition at Chicago, Flinn compiled 
all the official Guides to the World's Fair and at 
that time he wrote "Helen Vincent," a highly suc- 
cessful novel founded upon incidents of that world- 
famed show. 

Having closely watched John Flinn's career from 
his boyhood he is to me a wonder and a revelation. 
It would take a big book to tell of all the important 
newspaper enterprises alone that he has orig- 
inated and successfully managed, and his other 
commendable achievements have been numerous 
and varied. From "bundle-boy" in a dry goods 
store to all the high places he has held is splendid. 


With it all to have been a charter member of the 
Chicago Press Club, and President of that body 
twenty-five years afterwards, without seeking the 
place, is much, but added to this is the fact that 
during his incumbency the Press Club nearly 
doubled in membership and is today, beyond per- 
adventure, the greatest organization of its kind 
that the world has ever nad. 

Since this was written John J. Plinn has become 
the editor of a Christian Science publication in 
Boston. When he left Chicago the Press Club 
gave a brilliant banquet in his honor. 

a "web-foot" humokist. 

"Rabelais" is the pen name of R. W. Mitchell 
who was for a decade or so, toward the near end 
of the last century, pre-eminently the humorous 
writer of the "Oregon Country." Mr. Mitchell 
flourished on Portland newspapers during the time 
suggested, and he not only made a reputation as 
humorist but was highly regarded as an enter- 
prising and progressive citizen. Particularly he 
was a promoter of industrial expositions that were 
calculated to advertise the resources of the region 
in which he lived, and it was for this, rather than 
the "potential drag" of politics, that led the people 
of his state to exalt him to the position of Lieu- 
tenant Governor of Oregon. 

Simply as the nearest illustration at hand of his 
manner of humor, the following paragraph from 
a letter of his written to this writer, then Presi- 
dent of the Washington State Press Association, 
while the organization was in annual convention, 
is given: 

"For the Colorado-Maduro editor I have some 
affection. I mean the non-committal editor who 
is too strong of mind to wed and too weak of 
purpose to get married; tne man whose hopes 
bubble up like a glass of soda-water when first 



drawn and then simmer and shrink like a bucket 
of hesitation in a case of emergency. My sympa- 
thies go out to such a man and pump him to find 
out the trouble, only to learn that he has been 
too indiscriminate to criminate himself, too gen- 

John Flinn kin write poetry all right. 

eral and not private enough, and shaking in the 
cowardly fear of offending one girl he has pleased 
none. Then there's the young country editor, 
whom I admire also, too. Any young man who 
will take his short life in one hand and a glazed 
grip in the other and go out among the sage ticks, 



or into a far fir forest cutting 90,000 feet to the 
acre to teach utter strangers how to live, when 
to die, how to vote, how to fix an alibi in cases 
of extreme guilt, advise them when technical dis- 
eases can be cured and suggest the safest way 
to send in subscriptions, deserves credit. I won't 
say how much or for how long." 


For the last 28 years Sam P. Davis has been 
the owner and editor of the Carson, Nevada, Ap- 

■ H *«* : -if 


mm "Si* 

Ilp ; 


peal. He is not conceited and yet he pretended 
to be somewhat astonished, lately, upon discovery 
that everybody in the world did not know that he 
was born in Branford, Connecticut, on the 4th 


day of April, 1850. But he has commended the 
movement for getting out a book in which that 
fact shall be suddenly and unflickeringly blazed 
forth — so to speak. 

However, being born at Branford is not the 
only thing that has happened to Davis or Bran- 
ford. Racine College, Wisconsin, has whatever 
credit is due for this man's academic education 
and he began his newspaper work as the corre- 
spondent in the Nebraska legislature, at Lincoln, 
of the Omaha Herald. But a mob that he had 
exposed offered objections to nis staying in Lin- 
coln. He could not safely withstand these and 
while another person continued the raking process, 
over Davis' signature, that veracious and earnest 
correspondent of search-light introspection and 
exposition, took much-needed rest — and security — 
on an obscure rancn near Beatrice and distant 
from Lincoln, also Omaha. 

Having thus closed his legislative career Davis 
labored for a time on the Chicago Times as a 
reporter and then went to San Francisco where 
for several years he was engaged as a special 
writer on numerous newspapers and periodicals 
of that city some more years before going to 
Carson and the Appeal. 

Since his inhabitation of Nevada began Mr. 
Davis has been elected to serve two terms con- 
secutively as State Controller and has refused 
another term offered him by acclamation. As 
Insurance Commissioner, ex-officio, he created some 
sensations in insurance circles that redounded 
forcibly for the interests of policy-holders in life 
insurance, wherever. Lately, Davis has been ap- 
pointed Chief of the Nevada Industrial and Pub- 
licity Bureau and writes that he may be ex- 
pected to permeate the east with a long and im- 
posing railway train loaded with Nevada "boost- 
ers" and other products of his sierran suzerainity, 
including so much free-gold-bearing quartz that 


the "16-to-l" party will be glad that the issue was 
such a successful dissolving-view. 

Sam Davis has been known on the Pacific Coast 
for nearly forty years as a brilliant writer of 
humor, short stories and poetry an^ as an essay- 
ist and philosopher. He is always charged ex- 
plosively with the best sort of witty oratory and 
he is ever an enthusiastic patriot. His little ro- 
mances have been numerous and particularly orig- 
inal and many of them have been translated into 
the languages of foreign lands. Especially is this 
true of one entitled "The First Piano in Camp," 
and that has also been numerously and variedly 
rehashed in verse. 

Sam Davis is the son of a clergyman and has 
demonstrated and exemplified during his life the 
proverbial wickedness of preachers' boys. How- 
ever, Sam's wickedness has been of a more or 
less commendable kind and has largely run to a 
harmless yet peculiar style of practical joking. 
For instance, he used frequently to entertain rev- 
erend, though strange visitors to his reverend 
father by impersonating the elder Davis in the 
privacy of the latter's study and plying the oft- 
times willing and always pious guests with rum 
and cigars hilariously. 

A typical illustration of Davis' joking propen- 
sity is presented in the following incident: 

While Davis was, in a way, the city-literary- 
managing-and-general editor of a certain San 
Francisco newspaper, a poet whose imposing name 
wes Seneca Xenophon Something, had the habit 
of writing verses that were frequently printed in 
that journal. The proprietor of this newspaper 
was as illiterate as an infant but his name was 
printed at the head of the editorial columns as 
editor and he made it a rule that proof-slips of all 
original literary matter intended for insertion in 
his paper should be laid upon his table. He had 
been an admirer of Seneca Xenophon but for some 
personal reason had come to dislike the versifying 


namesake of the Roman philosopher and the 
Athenian historian. Hence he had charged Davis 
that no more of Seneca Xenophon's poetry should 
be published under the auspices of his diurnal 

Here was an opportunity for action by the Davis 
joking proclivity. Mr. Davis caused to be placed in 
type one of Byron's finest poems and with Seneca 
Xenophon's name in capital letters attached 
thereto. The poem was the rich and epical, 
"Sennacherib," beginning: 

"The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold, 
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold." 

This was duly placed on the proprietor's table 
and shortly that irate promotor entered the city, 
etc., editor's room with the offending proof-slip 
streaming between fingers of his. 

"Sam Davis," he began, "I thought I had asked 
you not to allow any more of Seneca Xenophon's 
poetry to go into my newspaper!" 

"Yes, you did," replied the lamb-personifying 
Davis, "but I thought that this poem was so ex- 
ceptionally good that we would be doing the paper 
an injustice, net to say violence, in failing to 
print it." 

"On the contrary, sir — and I hope to be allowed 
some little right to judge, in this case at least — the 
stuff is a lot of blasted rot and must be killed." 

That was what Sam Davis wanted, but the joke 
ramified San Francisco newspaperdom all the 


Just as red hair, pulchritude, rectitude, avoir- 
dupois, lankiness, or any other physical charac- 
teristic (rectitude is here included because, fre- 
quently, much main strength is required to keep 
it up) runs in families, as do mental character- 
istics. Thus quaint humor and a peculiar tenacity 


are inherent, hereditary, and protuberant, in Sam 
and Bob Davis, brothers. 

Their father, who was a clergyman, had the 

City directories and other catalogues of men's 
names, show numerous Robert H. Davises, 
but literature and the ilk of the Robert H. 
Davis concerned in this writing, the brother of 
Sam and son of their father, know only one "Bob" 

His friends will not admit another. 

Persons who have for so many years, as the 
writer hereof has, observed the doings of men 
worth while, have seen many individuals do great 
individual things and forget them, until some 
other men come along and do them over, with 
much fanfaronade, using, however, the first men's 

For instance, Bob Davis went after the outrage 
of "Embalmed Beef," interested a great command- 
ing general, thus the Government, slew the dragon 
and then continued his regular business, non- 
chalantly. The fanfaronaders followed, years 
afterward, and did their fanfaronading. 

Once a man named Langdon Smith wrote a 
powerful poem — "Evolution" — that was started 
toward Oblivion, by the "smarties," with a shove 
that would have dwarfed the impetus of an ava- 
lanche. Bob Davis fought for it and saved it. 
Literature fondly calls it "The Rescued Poem." 

That is enough. 

Bob Davis has been doing great things ever 
since he was old enough to lend a nana, and for a 
long time he had to fight like a wildcat to get the 
places where he might do those things. 

But he had fun all along the line. 

Bob Davis was born in Brownsville, Nebraska, 
in 1869. He grew up in the far west. The lift of 
the mighty mountains, the tone of the measureless 
mesas, the sweep of swift rivers, the roar of cata- 




racts, the depths of infinite forests, the breadth of 
things, and people, red and white, out there, set a 
stamp upon this man's nature that metropolis and 
cosmopolis have had no more effect to efface than 
have the winds of Egypt and the spatter of sand 
to wear away the pyramids. 

But he has fun, all the time. 

Here are some suggestions of Bob Davis, taken, 
scattering, from casual letters to a friend: 

"Personally, I am for the Red Man. I think he 
got a bad deal, and I hope, for his sake, that there 
is a happier Hunting Ground ahead than the one 
the White Man left behind." * * * 

"I want to tell you that I succeeded in landing a 
twenty-six-and-a-half pound salmon trout, up 
north. If necessary, i can furnish an affidavit to 
that effect, signed by both Wilbur Nesbit and S. E. 
Kiser. I will admit that they were not there. But, 
all the same, the affidavit is enough to cover any 
ordinary objection." 

* * * 

"The good that men do is all right. The good 
they don't do is all wrong. Isn't that a sort of 
cousin kin to a paradox?" 

* * * 

Robert H. Davis — "Bob" — is a chief in the house 
of the Munsey Magazines, and his personality — 
impersonally — ramifies all of the output of the 
establishment. He was a success as a newspaper 
man and now he is a success as a magazine man. 
His services have been, and are, sought for other 
periodicals, but he holds to Munsey loyally, be- 
cause he is a loyal man. 

Once, after Davis had got a good foothold, he 
said : 

"All my life people have been trying to keep me 
out of the newspaper business. They seemed to 
feel that I would fail. They told me kindly, 
'Davis, you are in the wrong pew.' Possibly I am 
in wrong." 


Davis began newspaper work in 1891 on the 
Carson Appeal, with his brother Sam. Why he 
left there is not recorded. But he went to San 
Francisco and got work on the Examiner. Three 
several and distinct times the managing editor 
discharged him without a letter of recommenda- 
tion. Tiring of that sort of jolting, he went to the 
Chronicle and failed to "lift the cup." Then he 
went to the Call. The "firing" force of that paper 
went on a vacation leaving orders that no one 
should be "fired" during his absence. Davis got 
to stay there quite a time. But the firing force 
came back and Davis left. He did not stop west of 
New York, and he took with him, Prank Nanki- 
vell, the artist, who was also on a still hunt for 
recognition. Davis refused, in crossing the conti- 
nent, to take work herding cattle, in which he was 
known to be eminently capable, and in which 
there would have been ample opportunity, now 
and then, to paint a town and make himself 
known. Even in New York he could not be in- 
duced to take the captaincy of a horse-car. But 
he went to the Journal and offered the services of 
himself and his artist. The powers there were 
strong enough to keep him out. Then he went to 
the World and informed the managing editor that 
he and Nankivell were a combination that metro- 
politan journalism could not afford to miss. This 
affected the World man hilariously and in his fit 
of fine feeling he signed the team. 

Davis and Nankivell made a palpable hit, the 
first shot, and the Journal became repentant. 

For nine years Davis worked on the Journal, in 
everything from prize fights to leading editorials, 
and he made good — and better. He was sent on 
delicate missions of political exploration and he 
was Right Bower, no matter what suite was 
trumps. During this time he unearthed "Em- 
balmed Beef," organized the "Order of Acorns," 
that had much to do with electing Seth Low 
mayor of New York and did numerous other in- 


trepid and eventful things that made folks take 

Davis had a season on the Sunday World in 
1903, then became Sunday editor of the Daily 
News, after Frank Munsey bought it. Later, a 
few months, Munsey told Bob to learn the maga- 
zine business. Robert obeyed. 

Now Bob Davis would have a harder fight get- 
ting out than he had getting in. 

Isn't this a pretty story, children? And it is all 


Frank Lebby Stanton is best known as the poet 
of the Atlanta Constitution, though he is the 
author of several books and he writes more quaint, 
humorous, little stories — for the most part in 
plantation negro dialect — than any one else in his 
line, and he is quoted far more, in both verse and 
prose, in the newspapers and the humorous de- 
partments of other periodicals than any other 
printer in the world. 

Beyond peradventure, Frank, Stanton is what 
might be termed "the suddenest poet" that ever 
bestrode Pegasus, or any flying horse in a merry- 

One morning, not long ago comparatively speak- 
ing, Stanton said to me as we emerged from his 

"Perhaps you think you have seen old folks, but 
come with me. I'll show you the oldest man this 
side of Mars, anyhow." 

We went out in the edge of the city, and 
turned into a sort of arena surrounded by a wall 
that was somewhat of the Mexican "dobey" order. 
It was a beer garden, and there were luxuriant 
plants and flowers, and there were tables, one of 
which came to be luxuriant, directly, and it would 
bloom whenever we wished, which was frequent. 

The man who waited on us was about eighty 
years old, and I asked Stanton if that was what 
he called the oldest man this side of Mars. 


"Simply a boy," he replied "Is your father 
here?" he asked the octogenarian. 

"Nein. Mine grosfader ben hare," was the reply. 
"Mine fader vas gone der brewery down." 

"Can we see your grandfather?" Stanton asked. 

"Oh yah! He vill commen. I vill him toldt." 
And Octo hurried away. "Hurried," I say, and 
that's what he did. He went as if he were a new 
bellboy. Not an -experienced one. Experienced 
bellboys never hurry, except when off watch. 

In a few minutes Octo returned with his grand- 
father, who was really about 130 years old. My! 
but he was old — the old one, I mean — still he was 
all there, and "as happy as a big sunflower." I 
don't know exactly how happy a big sunflower is, 
but the grosfader was very happy and he told 
stories in his native tongue, which, when too deep 
for our split German, Octo would show the points 
in his split English. 

Octo and his grosfader, and the bowers, and 
flowers, ahd things, were so entertaining that we 
other two stayed at the garden until near the 
middle of the afternoon (evening they call it 
down there), when all of a sudden it occurred to 
the sudden poet that he had some work to do for 
the morning edition of the Constitution. So we 
had a parting glass with Octo and his grosfader 
and sought Stanton's den in the newspaper build- 
ing. The poet handed me some late magazines 
and said: "Entertain yourself for a few minutes 
while I write two or three poems, and I'll be with 
you. You haven't seen any part of this town yet. 
It's like a mighty big slice of a world's fair. 
Papinta is at the theater tonight, and we'll go see 
her. She's the poetry of motion." 

Frank Stanton was born in Charleston, South 
Carolina, in 1857, was educated in the common 
schools of that city and served an apprenticeship 
as a printer. He still retains some of the instincts 
of the old-time printer, as for instance: he likes 
to stay up all night at times, so as to "pick up" 
himself "fat" in the morning. He has been on the 


staff of the Atlanta Constitution more than twenty 
years, contributes to many magazines and gives 
public readings from his stories and verse under 
the management of lyceum bureaus. 


Duncan M. Smith, who writes two columns of 
humorous paragraphs for every day in the week 
and concerning the current happenings of the 
world, social, political and general, for the Chicago 
News, is sometimes sad because he was not christ- 
ened John and seems to overlook the negative vir- 
tue of his ancestors who did not spell Smith with 
a "Y." 

Smith was born at Rockford, Illinois, but he 
will not tell how long ago — and he looks it. Any- 
how it was some time during the unpleasantness 
between the north and the south. Along about that 
time he heard the call of his country but he did 
not respond and go to the war as he didn't know 
but that it was some of the neighbors scolding 
their children. At least that is what he says about 
it. The public schools of Rockford did what they 
could for him until he was sixteen when his 
parents took him westward where, for a time, he 
had a more or less thrilling contest with the soil, 
but a cyclone literally blew him into the Blue 
Valley Blade and the newspaper business at Seward, 
Nebraska. He worked there long enough to get the 
habit of starting newspapers, and the "long-felt- 
wants" that he discovered were astonishing. At 
one place of 2,000 inhabitants that had five weekly 
papers he discovered that the long-felt-want was a 
daily, so he started one. But that in turn started 
him again and finally he struck Indiana. There 
the poetry germ got into his system. The result 
was that he got into Chicago and has been writing 
funny verse and the two columns of paragraphs 
mentioned, ever since, and that has been nearly a 
decade. One of these columns is headed "Hit or 
Miss" and he nearly always hits. 




Once the wags of the Chicago Press Club held 
a court in which Smith was tried on the charge 
of being a poet. He was acquitted. 

Aside from his never-failing fund of humor Dun- 
can Smith is one of the men who furnish the 
brains for very exacting departments in the great 
newspapers of the day. Necessarily he is a think- 
ing entity of the times, a philosopher who is in 
touch with the world, and very alert and industri- 
ous. It is doubtful if there be, in all the duties 
appertaining to journalism, a more difficult one 
than that of a man on the editorial page who has 
to show what is going on by the sidelights of 
witty paragraphs and verse. But Duncan Smith 
does that every working day of his life, and does 
it brilliantly. 

While in Washington, Indiana, conducting the 
Daily Herald, an incident occurred which he re- 
lated to me one evening shortly before this writing. 

The managers of the local opera house were ig- 
noring his valuable advertising columns, but he 
was of too generous a nature to ignore the play- 
house in return. Opportunity to reciprocate pleas- 
antly came in the form of a female minstrel troupe 
that had visited the city on several previous occa- 
sions and had played to crowded houses of men 
only. As soon as announcement of the performance 
was made Smith began treating it as the leading 
society event of the season and promising as a 
special mark of distinction to print the names of 
all those who might attend as a particular favor 
to them and to the management. For a week the 
town was guessing — opinion being divided — as to 
whether he would dare do such a thing. The night 
came and instead of the usual crowded house only 
about a baker's dozen attended and most of them 
on complimentaries. While he didn't print the 
names next day, offering as an excuse the small 
number who had been present, he did business 
after that with the opera house on a cash basis. 

In starting newspapers Smith always made it a 



point to have "the largest circulation of any other 
paper in that city," even though he had only 
started it the day before, and he always and imme- 

Smith with his rapid fire gun Hit or Miss. Mostly hit. 

diately advertised that fact in the most earnest, 
unqualified and threatening way. 

Mr. Smith was married while he was carrying 
on the York, Nebraska, Daily Independent, to Miss 
Grace Woodward, of Defiance, Ohio. 




Of the rising generation of humorists one of 
the most promising is Douglas Malloch, the Chi- 
cago poet, whose portrayals of the humor of lum- 
ber camps and the sentiment of the forest have 
already won him unique, gratifying and lucrative 
position and fame. Mr. J. E. Defebaugh, who has 
built up in the American Lumberman the most 

Douglas Malloch. 

valuable trade journal in the world, has the good 
taste and business judgment to make his publica- 
tion entertaining as well as commercially reliable 
and important in the line to which it caters. To 
that end he employs on his editorial staff this 
brilliant young Malloch in the conduct of a dis- 
tinct department wherein the special gifts, indi- 
cated, of this humorist of the forest, are exploited 



to the fullest. Beside this work Malloch does 
much in contributions to leading magazines and a 
famous publishing house has lately brought out 
in elegant dress his first book of poems, entitled 
"In Forest Land." 

Of influential family Douglas Malloch was born 
May 5, 1877, in the saw mill town of Muskegon, 
Michigan, near the banks of Muskegon Lake, 
from which the town takes its name, and other 
things, including fish and sawlogs. Mal- 
loch declares that he was largely raised on 
a diet of sawdust and claims to have been the 
original breakfast food ba- 
by. It is a far jump, but 
Alvah Milton Kerr, the fa- 
mous western novelist, and 
long time an associate of 
Don Piatt in Washington 
journalism, describes Mal- 
loch as the greatest writer 
of aphorisms in America. 

Malloch's wit is gentle 
enough, natively, but he is 
5^ incisive when occasion de- 
mands. He is in frequent 
demand as an after-dinner 
speaker at art, social and 
literary banquets. 

On one occasion he was 
being entertained by the 
Palette and Chisel Club in 
Chicago and was urged to 
tell a story, an art in which 
he is skillful. A prominent 
landscape painter, himself 

noted for his sarcasm, joined in the request: 
"Go ahead, Malloch," he said. "We will enjoy 

the novelty. You know up here we don't spend our 

time telling jokes." 

Alvah Milan Kerr says. 

AND 80 M E MORE 203 

"No," replied the forest poet, looking fixedly at 
one of the artist's landscapes then on exhibition. 
"No, up here you hang them on the wall." 

A good story of a humorist hoist by his own 
petard is told at Malloch's expense. Before the 
old Russell House in Detroit had been torn down 
to make room for the magnificent Pontchartrain, 
Malloch, while in that city, went up to the hotel 
cashier's desk to cash a check. The cashier passed 
it back and silently pointed to a sign over the 
window which read: 

"Honor thy father and thy mother 
— but not a stranger's checks." 

The paraphrased commandment quoted by the 
sign was a paragraph that Malloch had written 
for one of the humorous weeklies years before. 

Many critics have hailed Malloch as the suc- 
cessor of Bret Harte. He is tall, angular, charm- 
ingly awkward, forcibly oratorical and tremend- 
ously sincere when he speaks. 

A great newspaper says of Malloch's work: "His 
field is new, his knowledge exact and his inspira- 
tion is genuine. He knows the forest as the sailor 
knows the sea." 

"uncle by." 

Byron Williams is known to more editors and 
publishers in the West, personally and profes- 
sionally, than any other single individual in his 
line living. And yet Williams is not single, though 
somewhat singular. Think of a young and hand- 
some man being affectionately called "Uncle By" 
by two-thirds of the rural editors west of the 
Alleghany mountains and east of the Rockies, 
who is proud of the appellation and cultivates it! 

Williams has a syndicate of more than two hun- 
dred newspapers that he supplies with six columns 
per week of humor and pathos, in verse and prose, 
that is entitled '"Little Visits with Uncle By." 



That accounts, in a degree, for his acquaintance- 
ship with the rural editors, but nothing, except 
that which can elucidate occult phenomena, can 
account for the quantity of pleasing material with 
which he verdures the waste places in their news- 
papers. His enormous capacity for work and his 
perennial flow and glow of happy-heartedness is, 


however, something of a suggestion in the prem- 

Lately a huge and richly illustrated volume, 
entitled "Down Country Lanes," the work of Byron 
Williams, came from the press, and of it one critic 

"To the people of the city who can remember 
when they lived in the country, Mr. Williams' 



"Uncle By" down at the|Farm. 


poems are full of pleasing reminiscences. He takes 
you back to the old home, the old lane, the rail 
fences, the whistle of the bob-white and drops you 
into the old swimmin' hole with a splash." 

Williams was born and brought up in Iowa. It 
was in March, "during the year of the big wind," 
that he was born, he says, and he has been blow- 
ing over it ever since. His March characteristics 
are that he is something of a lion in society and 
yet he is as gentle as a lamb about it. Definiteness 
cannot be arrived at as to where in Iowa he was 
brought up, for he was very scattering in his 
youth, having been a printer from the time he can 
remember and one with the habit of starting news- 
papers. Once, indeed, he owned a farm with a 
small house and a big mortgage on it. In the mean- 
time, however, he got a "right smart schooling" 
and he also took a diploma at college. As no one 
made him put it back, he has the diploma yet. 
In Charles City, Iowa, he got hold of another pa- 
per and was also married. He did not like the 
paper but he has always been fond of his wife. 
So he sold the paper and went to Chicago, taking 
Mrs. Williams with him, and was happy ever after. 

Besides carrying on his syndicate, Mr. Williams 
is the editor of a handsome periodical, carried on 
in the interest of the printing business, The West- 
ern Publisher, owned by the Western Newspaper 
Union; he is one of the directors of the Chicago 
Press Club and is the proud owner of a charming 
suburban home at Glen Ellyn, where a Press Club 
colony has acquired a lake, an island, some woods, 
proximity to a pretty village and acre lots in sev- 
eralty, with all the indebtedness thereunto apper- 
taining. But the place is only forty minutes from 
"The Loop," and as all the colonists are very busy 
men in the city, they have very little time to brood 
over impending installments. 




Wilbur D. Nesbit was born in Xenia, Ohio, in 
1871. The little bouse in which he was born still 
stands on Main street, and a couple of years ago 
the city placed on it a handsome metal tablet 
reading "Main Street." It gratified Nesbit very 
much to learn that his birthplace had thus been 
marked. Nesbit learned to set type when 7 years 
old, and one day he set up a poem. Now he will 


set up a poem, or a cigar, whenever it is his turn 
to treat. 

Realizing that the fount of inspiration in Ohio 
was not as Pierian as it should be, he went to 
Indiana and lived there long enough to get the 
writing habit. 


After some intermittent and feverish work as an 
"ad" writer and at newspaper work on the In- 
dianapolis Journal, Nesbit went to Baltimore, 
where for four years he did a humorous column 
on the American. Then he came to Chicago, to do 
similar work on the Tribune. After four years of 
service on the Tribune he began syndicating his 
matter. Then he followed the example of that 
other verse writer, Shakespeare, and tried his 
hand at writing shows. 

Nesbit has published "The Trail to Boyland," 
"The Gentleman Ragman," "A Book of Poems," 
"The Land of Make-Believe," and four or five 
other books. 

That is about the way Nesbit told it when he 
was interviewed "for his life." The story is too 
short and flippant, but Nesbit is a modest man. 
Really he is one of the true humorists of his gen- 
eration and he writes pure poetry when he pleases 
— often when others please. His four years on the 
Tribune were in the position of "daily poet," and 
some of his work then, in that line, was of the 
best that was produced anywhere. 

All of Nesbit's qualities are sterling. His man- 
hood is of the highest order. It would be impos- 
sible for him to seem other than he is. He hates 
sham. He is fond of his friends and they know it. 
Persons who give him cause to dislike them learn 
that he has marked them out of his "calling list" 
as quickly as he does. He is careful and syste- 
matic in his work and his literature — dramatic 
and humorous, as well as poetic — always rings 
true. He will become famous as a writer of plays 
and eminently successful. The start that he has 
made in that line with his boundless energy, 
earnestness and industry, combined with his in- 
stant ability, are almost sufficient evidence of 
what he will do and that it will be standard. 

Nesbit is remarkably happy and entertaining be- 
fore an audience on convivial occasions and on the 
rostrum. His quick wit and cameo-cut expressive- 
ness are charming and he presents his thoughts at 



such times with an ease and nonchalance that 
are rare, cordial and welcome, and his spontan- 
iety is refreshing. 

Nesbit is a member of the "Humorists' Union," 
and is probably a "walking delegate," as he is one 
of those who rides — and he rides high. Nesbit is 
also president of the famous "40 Club" of Chicago. 
He is now of the staff of the Chicago Post. 


_ \_ 


During the time when nearly all the other men- 
folks of Pennsylvania were "totin' guns" down in 
the mud of the "Peninsula" in Virginia and with 
Grant at Donelson, Nashville, and other localities 
of the Confederacy in the early days of 1862, 



Samuel Ellsworth Kiser came into the Keystone 
State at Shippensville and put up some protests, 
not particularly as to the conduct of the war, 
which was quite the habit among stay-at-home 
generals about that time, but rather upon the 
conduct of things generally. However, as he grew 
in years he also grew to think better of all things, 
and this happy manner increased with him until 
it made him a real poet-humorist — moreover a 
successful one. 

Under the head of "Al- 
ternating Currents," Mr. 
Kiser writes, every day, in 
the Record-Herald of Chi- 
cago, on the editorial page, 
a column of bright things 
witty and wise in verse 
and prose, upon the cur- 
rent affairs of the world 
or any other subject that 
strikes his fancy. Mr. 
Kiser also contributes co- 
piously, rhyme, reason and 
romance to magazines 
that demand a high order 
of light literature. His 
books, which are all from 
the standard press, are 
"Bud Wilkins at the S> E> Klser as the offlce boy 
Show," a volume of verse, "Georgie," "Love Son- 
nets of an Office Boy," "Ballads of the Busy 
Days," "Charles the Chauffer," etc. 

Mr. Kiser is a quiet young man who is very 
much in earnest, notwithstanding his perennial 
humor that is quaint and true. His work is among 
the most popular of the present generation of 
humorists, and his fame grows apace. 


The following selections suggest the manner of 
Mr. Riser's newspaper work: 

"A man never has to hunt long to find a girl's 
mouth in the dark. 

"The bitterest of all good medicines is work. 

"The difference between a politician and a 
statesman is about the same as the difference be- 
tween a 'sport' and a sportsman. 

"If people could learn not to care for wealth it 
would come easy. 

"It matters not how weary and unhappy she may 
be, a married woman always gets excited when a 
girl with a love affair comes around. 

"A good and cheerful old man comes as near 
being godlike as any may be in this world." 

Following is one of Mr. Kiser's humorous 

they've given pa a raise. 

Say, you ought to hear ma singin' — she's as happy 

as a lark, 
And her smile stays on from mornin' till a long 

time after dark; 
She's been buyin' rugs, and gettin' a new, costly 

switch to wear, 
And she takes a cab whenever she goes callin' 

any where; 
She has bought herself a dimund, and you ought 

to see it blaze, 
Ma's as cheerful as a robin — they have given pa a 


Sister's busy gettin' dresses that'll cost an awful 

And the hats that she's been buyin' are the very 

latest style; 
She's to go abroad this summer with some people 

named the Cooks; 
Is she happy? Well, I guess so! You can see it 

by her looks; 
She goes hummin' songs and dancin' and in forty 

thousand ways 
Lets us know that she is cheerful since they've 

given pa a raise. 


Pa still works the same as ever, and he's smokin* 

stogies yet, 
Wears the suit he got last summer, and I guess he's 

still in debt; 
Anyway, he starts off early, and comes home 

fagged out at night, 
And his forehead's gettin' wrinkled and his hair 

is turnin' white; 
Can't, somehow, help feelin' sorry as I sit and 

watch him gaze 
With a vacant stare at nothin'. Yes, they've given 

pa a raise. 

This is one of Riser's more serious poems: 


We speak in many tongues, we men 

Who do the work that men must do 
With sword and spade and plow and pen — 

My language may be strange to you; 
I may not know when you complain, 

Nor comprehend if you revile; 
Your preaching may be all in vain, 

But we are brothers when we smile. 

The Malay may not understand 

When I explain to him my creed; 
The Mongol, all unmoved and bland 

May think that I am mad, indeed ; 
To them the words I use may be 

A jargon fashioned to beguile; 
But they extend their hands to me 

And know my meaning when I smile. 

We speak in many tongues, we men 

Who do the work that must be done, 
And if, perchance, some morning when 

The first beam slanted from the sun 
A savage faced you where you woke 

Upon the farthest South Sea isle, 
He might not know what words you spoke 

But he would understand your smile. 


The spoken word may not convey 

The slightest meaning to our minds, 
But from the coldest Lapland bay 

To where Magellan's channel winds, 
From Ganges to the Amazon, 

From frozen Yukon to the Nile, 
And from La Plata to the Don, 

There is one meaning for a smile. 

In response to the author's letter asking Mi. 
Kiser for something concerning his start in life, 
he wrote: 

"I was born in Pennsylvania, and what educa- 
tion I have was obtained in little red school houses 
there and in Ohio. After the publication of my 
first book of verses a good old lady who saw a 
copy of it somewhere or somehow went to my 
mother for the purpose of finding out about me. 

" 'When,' she asked, 'did you discover that your 
son possessed this gift?' 

" T think,' my mother replied, 'that it was when 
he was about twelve years old. One day he fell 
out of a cherry tree and struck on his head. We 
noticed after that that he seemed to be different 
from the rest of the children.' 

"It was not until I was nearly twenty-five, how- 
ever, that I began to give expression to my poetic 
feelings. I was working on a. Cleveland paper 
when I one day wrote and handed to the editor 
these lines: 

"Where snow had drifted o'er the land 
I saw a sweet young mother stand; 
A babe was lying on her breast; 

Its little form 
Against herself she closely pressed 

To keep it warm. 

"In later years I passed once more 

And saw her at a cottage door; 
A boy was lying on her knee; 

Her look was grim, 
And, suffering Joshua, how she 

Was warming him." 


"The editor said it was hot stuff, and on the 
strength of it I was ordered to attend a prize fight 
which was to be pulled off in the outskirts of the 
city that night. 

" 'I've been wondering all day,' said the editor, 
'how we might have this fight written up in some 
original manner. You go and write it up in 

"I did it, and was appointed sporting editor. 
For an entire season I reported baseball games in 
verse, and, as far as I know, I was the pioneer in 
that line of endeavor. 

"Before becoming a reporter I was a telegraph 
operator. I might be a telegraph operator now, 
or the president of some great railroad system, if 
I had not gone to sleep while on duty one night 
and made it necessary for the despatcher to hold 
an express train for three hours on a siding when 
the track was clear for two hundred miles ahead. 

"My sleepiness was due to the fact that I had, 
during the hours when I should have been rest- 
ing, roamed through pleasant places with a lovely 
girl, who lost interest in me after they had sent 
me word that I was out of a job. 

"Thus we see that the success of a great man 
may be due in a large measure to chance." 


Now and then Nixon Waterman leaves his home 
at Arlington Heights, Boston, to run over to Chi- 
cago, where, for many years, he was a joy to the 
"Old Guard" of the Press Club. Between times 
he sends a cheery message in verse that goes upon 
the bulletin board, and from thence goes to the 
hearts of all there that know him. 

Waterman is a poet-humorist who was educated, 
for the most part, in Western newspaper offices. 
He was born at Newark, Illinois, November 12, 
1859, went to school at Creston, Iowa, wrote 
verses and editorial humorous sketches on Omaha 
newspapers several years, then Chicago news- 
papers some more years and removed to Boston 


in 1895, where he has since worked industriously 
as contributor to magazines, reader and editor for 
a publishing house, and has done much in the way 
of public readings, from his own poetry and 
humorous writings, and delivered lectures on 
humorous-literary-philosophical topics. He is a 
member of Boston Chapter Actors' Christian Al- 
liance, Authors' Club of Boston and Press Club of 
Chicago. His books are: "A Book of Verses," 
"In Merry Mood," and "Boy Wanted." He also 
compiled and edited "Ben King's Verse." He sent 
me his "Book of Verses" at a country retreat in 
Indiana, in the summer of 1900, and it brought 
this to the press: 

"Out and away from the city; down among the 
Hoosier hills; under the trees and where the grass 
is luxuriant; along the roads that are bordered 
with runaway wild roses; on a hillside where from 
below comes the droning workword of the plow- 
man in the corn; amid a' continuous concert of 
feathered songsters; the "I-chee-wee, I-chee-wee," 
of the field-lark; the "Ah-me, Ah-me," of the far- 
away turtle-dove; the "Bob-white, Bob-white, are 
your cherries ripe?" of the quail, and one knows 
why Nixon Waterman, the good, jolly poet, writes 
such things as this: 

" 'June and the skies brimming over 

With seas of the tenderest blue; 
June, and the bloom of the clover, 

Heavy with honey and dew; 
June, and the reeds and the rushes, 

Slender and lithesome and long; 
June, and the larks and the thrushes 

Singing their happiest song.' 

"Then today the rain comes. The corn needed 
it. All day long the world is wet. There are frag- 
rant odors from the dampness of it ail. Night 
comes and the winds sough among the trees. The 
stars are gone and you can almost gather the dark- 
ness in your hand, as a black drapery; push it 


aside as you open the door and let the light flood 
out into it. You shut out the darkness and the 
rain, fall into an easy chair, under the light with 
good old 'Nick's' book open before you, and you 
read as if it had come in with you: 

" 'Ah, the drip, drip, drip, of the rain, the rain, 

The drip, drip, drip, of the rain; 
The sweet, sad, song the whole night long 

Is sung in my drowsy brain. 
In a dream I rest in the old home nest, 

And my mother comes again, 
As came she oft, with a step as soft 

As the drip, drip, drip, of the rain, the rain, 
The drip, drip, drip, of the rain.' 

"But in all there is cheeriness. Waterman has 
no other way but that. He sees the pleasant, 
happy, jolly side of life, and he writes as if there 
were no such things as worry, sorrow, unrequit- 
ance, pain, misfortune, and to such a man there is 
only healthfulness. 

"Trouble runs off of him like water from a duck's 

"What is more, and to the good, Waterman's 
poetry brings that condition to others. It is a 
draught from Lethe, and it brings rest and forget- 
fulness of care. It is wholesome and one is the 
purer for it. It is jolly and it beguiles you of your 
smiles. It is manly and it braces. It is sincere 
and you believe it. 

" 'Boy Wanted' is Waterman's latest book. It is 
quaintly made and contains a world of wisdom. 
For boys — and even for boys of larger growth — it 
is a wonderful up-lifter. On its front cover is an 
epigramatic quartrain that is particularly typical 
of Nixon Waterman: 

"'Do not loiter or shirk; 

Do not falter or shrink; 
Just think out your work, 

And work out your think!"'" 



In Cuba during the war of the United States 
with Spain, then in the troubles with the Phil- 
ippines haunting the firing-line, and in previous 
experiences in an Indian uprising, Richard Henry- 
Little had won fame as a war correspondent. Be- 
sides he had not only satisfied his employers in 
getting the news, but he had captured his readers 
with the highly entertaining manner in which he 
had presented the details. In short, he had won 
the name of being a humorist who was "different," 
as well as that of being a thorough newspaper man. 
Hence, at the beginning of hostilities between Rus- 
sia and Japan, Little was sent to the far East to 
report the war. Being one of the star members 
of the Chicago Press Club, and one of its vice- 
presidents, he was given permission by that body 
to travel in foreign lands. During his absence 
he was twice captured on the battle-field, first by 
the Russians and then by the Japanese. The last 
named people informed him that it would be good 
for his health to go home, and, taking that advice, 
he arrived at the main office of the Chicago News 
about the close of the war. 

It was in April, 1905, that a newspaper para- 
graph was printed, worded as follows: 

"Dick Little, who has been over in Manchuria 
looking after the war for the News, and who ad- 
vised the Jap generals for a while and then went 
over and advised the Russians, until the Japs got 
alarmed and captured him, will be at home on the 
26th, and the Press Club will give him a recep- 
tion dinner. The receptive members are in train- 
ing for the affair, and Richard will be himself 

Later on the following report of the dinner al- 
luded to was published in a New York periodical, 
of which this writer was the Chicago correspond- 





"The home-coming supper given to Richard Lit- 
tle, the war correspondent, at the Press Club last 
Wednesday night, was one of the most brilliant 
affairs that have ever been pulled off by this or- 
ganization, so famous for its unique and interest- 
ing entertainments. 

"Little and his great Russian beard and Cos- 
sack overcoat, arrived on a belated train Wednes- 
day instead of Tuesday, the Rocky mountains hav- 
ing moved to some extent onto the right of way 
of the Union Pacific railroad, thus making Little 
and his travel companions, George Ade and C. C. 
Kent, twenty-four hours tardy. This movement of 
the mountains is supposed in some quarters to 
have been in deference to the opinion of Prof. 
James Paul Goode, of the University of Chicago, 
who, as noted before in these letters, had inveighed 
against those swellings on the backbone of the con- 
tinent as deleterious to the mental, physical and 
social welfare of this republic's population. 

"Anyhow, Little, Ade and Kent walked for some 
rocky miles around the impediment and hit a 
train on the eastern slope that brought them in 
twenty-four hours late but all together. 

"At the banquet that night there were four 
tables the full length of the great dining hall and 
one across the top, for the accommodation of Pres- 
ident Carr, the toastmaster, Little, Ade, Kent and 
the other specialists. All of these tables were 
occupied in every seat by as warm a crowd of jolly 
good fellows as ever found a quail's wishbone. 
The hall was decorated with American, Jap and 
Russ flags, walls, chandeliers, windows and doors, 
and a huge umbrella of the oriental style was sus- 
pended in a way to prevent the rays of laudation 
from beating down too fiercely upon the head of 
the hero. 

"After the guests were seated Little arrived and 
bent his way to his place, amid cheers and hand 
clapping that would have gone well to the music of 


'See, the Conquering Hero Comes.' Possibly the 
musicians played that, but if they did nobody 
knew it. Something more strenuous than the clat- 
ter of the average orchestra would have been 
necessary to rise above the sound of the plaudits 
made otherwise. There were such remarks as: 
'How tall would he be if he straightened up?' 
'What do you think of them whiskers?' 'This 
thing fits him,' and amid it all a line of butchers 
came in bringing the fatted calf and then there 
was something doing. While the high-priced 
meat was being consumed individual singers rose 
here and there at brief intervals with a verse of a 
jolly song, cablegrams from the mikado and the 
czar, and from Jap girls and other inquiring 
friends came rapidly, and there was fun alive. 

"The menu having been wrecked, the program 
of toasts, with interjections, proceeded. The 
speeches were short and bright and the poems of 
the occasion were apt and witty. Little's responses 
were simply characteristic of one of the most 
unique humorists of the decade. Of course it 
would be impractical to attempt a detailed ac- 
count of the affair in these notes, but here is the 
page from the printed bill at the table that indi- 
cated what was to be expected beyond the menu, 
as to the 'formal proceedings': 

" 'Homer J. Carr Chairman 

John T. McCutcheon 

Welcome to Dick Little, O hayo! sdravstvuite! 
Response by Dick Little. 

Wilbur D. Nesbit Ode to Dick. Uta Kniga 

Capt. S. B. Darby, U.S.N, (retired), command- 
er of the Dorothea, Illinois Naval Reserve 
The Fawan and the Navy. Jokisen Parokhodi 
Response by Rear Admiral Richard Henry Little 
Adj. Gen. Henry Barrett Chamberlain, 1st 

Reg. I. N. G. (retired) 

The Military Lessons of the War. Rikigun. 


Response by Field Marshal R. Henry Little. 

Dr. Hugh Blake Williams 

The Red Cross and the Sanitary Service 
Isha-byoin Goshpectali. 
Response by Surgeon General Richard H. Little. 
Prof. Cho Yo . . Japan and the Japanese. Nippon 
Response by Baron Ri Hen Littleyama 
Trumbull White .. Russia and the Russians. Russi 
Response by Dikovsky Henschski Littleoff 

Duncan M. Smith 

. . .The Long Trail. Nagai-michi Mahlo oolitsa 

E. R. Pritchard Prison Life. Roya Tiourmahs 

Response by Convict Little, No. 4-11-44. 

George Ade 

First Aid to the Injured. Taski-tomodachi 
Khto eedyot? 

Response by Dick. 
S'ayonara 30 Dobraya Notch.' " 

Having been requested to furnish this author, in 
his own hand-writing, a brief synopsis of his life, 
Mr. Little supplied the following information in 
less than average newspaper type-written "copy": 

"Richard Henry Little. Born in LeRoy, 111. Le- 
Roy is a beautiful little city almost unknown to 
travelers for two or three scores of years, but since 
the elevator has burned down it can now be dis- 
tinctly seen from the train with the naked eye, 
except when a passing hay wagon temporarily 
obstructs the lovely panorama. 

"A memorial tablet can now be seen in front of 
the old brick house where the subject of our sketch 
was born. The tablet reads: 

" 'Bill's Shaving Parlor. 

Shaves ten cents. 

Haircuts fifteen cents.' 



"When Mr. Little was five years old his father, 
Dr. J. Little moved Richard and the rest of the 
family to Bloomington. 

"This and the night Dickinson's barn burned 
down are still remembered as the greatest events 
in the history of LeRoy. Nelse Humprey, the 

, t , -si,if '- 

Curse them ! They are not 
following me plans. 

poet laureate of LeRoy, gave birth to an inspira- 
tional poem commemorating the second of these 
historic epochs: 

" 'The cats now have their tails unpulled, 
There's no can tied to old dog Tray; 

It's ungodly quiet here in Leroy 

Since Doc Little took his kid away." 


Mr. Little finished his education at the Wes- 
leyan University at Bloomington with unusual 
honors, it being at the unanimous request of the 
entire faculty and the board of trustees. 

Mr. Little has been through four wars, but 
he declares the most harrowing moments of his 
life were those spent on the lecture platform. 

At Vedersburg, Indiana, he had an afternoon 
date. There were a few people in the audience. 
The chairman of the meeting came up while 
Dick was getting ready to go on. "Say, Mister 
Little," he said, "I'm 'fraid you won't git a very 
big audience. There's a revival across the street, 
a funeral in the next block, and a saloon opening, 
with free lunch and trimmings down town." 

"It was a hard proposition," said Little, "the 
only people in Vedersburg that came to see me 
were those who didn't smoke or drink, or eat free 
lunch, and had no soul to save and had a grouch 
on the deceased. Seven all told, and three of them 
wanted their money back when they found I didn't 
play a fiddle and sing coon songs." 

The hardest luck Little said he ever struck was 
in a town out in Iowa. "I told the audience the 
funniest original stories imaginable. I know they 
were funny, because I had pretty near laughed 
myself to death when I heard them. But the audi- 
ence sat like they were petrified. I worked my- 
self almost into a frenzy. I said I would bring a 
smile to those stone faces or die in the attempt. 
Useless. Finally when all hope had fled a man 
down in the front row suddenly gave vent to a 
subdued 'haw haw' at one of my stories. De- 
siring to punish the rest of my hearers I said 
with terrible irony, 'I am surprised that any one 
in this audience will so far forget himself as to 
laugh at a funny story. I earnestly hope that this 
unseemly action will not occur again.' Then I 
went on. 

"The chairman of the meeting tiptoed off the 
stage and came around in front and, walking up 


to the man who had laughed, tapped him on the 
shoulder and said sternly, 'Young man, if you 
hain't got no more sense than to disturb the 
meetin' you kin git out.' And they put him out. 
But he was in luck they didn't tar and feather him 
or burn him at the stake." 

At a Chautauqua down in Illinois, Little lectured 
one Saturday night. The committee wanted to get 
their money's worth, so they said that inasmuch 
as he would not leave until Sunday afternoon, and 
that he would be boarding free all this time at the 
expense of the association, would he mind preach- 
ing at the church services Sunday morning. 

"Hell! no," said Dick, "preaching is my long 

The committee decided to get somebody else. 

Little was elected president of the Chicago Press 
Club in January, 1908, and has served that or- 
ganization with ability and distinction up to the 
time of going to press. 


In the neighborhood of Madison and Sangamon 
streets, Chicago, when that was away out west, but 
is now the heart of an "inconceivable Babylon," 
and at a time — May 30, 1856 — when Chicago was 
so infantile as not to worry about its milk, Prank 
Berry Welch set up his first howl. He was so can- 
did about it that some folks think that was why 
he was named Frank. Immediately thereafter 
the dove of peace looked about once or twice, in 
a sudden and yet timid way, then lifted herself 
from the perch and sought recognition and a 
quieter abiding place in the distinct elsewhere. 

In seven short years this juvenile had developed 
a disposition to look into things, and a phrenolo- 
gist was called in for advice as to what he' should 
be tied to, permanently, he having been, up to that 
time, tied for the most part to a bed-post. The 


phrenologist gave him a very fair character, the 
parents having endeavored to bias the professor 
with a liberal contribution to his science and needs, 
stimulated by both pride and fear. The man of 
science had overlooked Frank's abnormal bump 
of inquisitiveness, which led the lad to try his 
hand at discovering what was the matter with the 
hall clock, almost before the professor had turned 
the corner. Frank "fixed" the clock, but not so 
surreptitiously or successfully as he had hoped. 
Then his mother "fixed" him — for cold weather. 
He remembers that he was plenty warm for some 
time thereafter, carrying about with him a base- 

Seven more years elapsed, during which time 
Frank gathered flowers of knowledge at school, 
without taxing his time for ball practice and such 
diversions, more than was quite convenient. He 
tried a number of public schools — also the teachers. 
His friends were many, even then, for he was 
forever giving and forgiving, and that makes 
friends, while the sun is up. 

Among the boys at the Franklin school, on the 
North Side, with whom Frank kept up a never- 
ending Halloween, April Fool Day, general hot 
time and hurrah, were Theodore Brentano, now 
judge of a high court; Frederick Hild, public li- 
brarian; Robert E. Burke, prominent politician; 
Fred Busse, mayor of Chicago, and others, now 
more or less distinguished. Frank remembers, 
hilariously, that one time the embryo judge had 
come into possession of one of those old-fashioned 
"sprinkling-pot" Allen revolvers and in a discus- 
sion between them the coming jurist flourished 
the weapon in such a dangerous way that Frank 
feared Teddy was going to hit him with it. Noth- 
ing came of it, however — not even a sprinkling. 

After fourteen, for two years, Frank lived in 
Mississippi, where he says he "learned to pick cot- 
ton and 'chiggers,' hoe corn and train morning 
glories, tamp ties and tree "possums." Here also 


he acquired the quinine habit, as an antidote to 
the balmy bottom-land breezes. This was before 
the capsulian era and he had to come back to 
Chicago to de-cinchonize and leave off his Peruvian 
bark. Altogether a bitter experience. The chills 
and fever helped him to shake the South and he 
landed among the ashes of the O'Learyian episode 
of October, 1871. To be an express driver was a 
gooa thing then and he commanded a team for two 
years, acquiring a stable knowledge of etiquette 
and a "hossy" way that was quite fetching — at a 
dollar a load. 

Then, for a year, Welch pervaded the upper 
peninsula of Michigan, on Little Bay de Noquet 
and the White Fish River, in the employ of a 
lumbering company as clerk, scaler, etc., doing the 
greater part of his work by proxy while he "toted" 
a gun through the woods or trolled the fishing 
grounds. Out of it all Frank acquired a valuable 
stock of lumber lore and lumber-jack eccentrics 
that he has made profitable use of since. 

Later, Welch returned to Chicago and went to 
work for the A. N. Kellogg Newspaper company 
as assistant proofreader, editor, printer, stereo- 
typer, ad. solicitor, janitor and others, until 1883, 
when he took his aggregation of domestic goods, 
gods and angels and went to Los Angeles, Cali- 
fornia. There he set type, picked fruit, juggled 
groceries and wrote humorous sketches and verses 
for the Times and the Porcupine under the pen 
name of "Pancho," making a local hit. But it was 
altogether "hard-sleddin' " and he came back to 
Chicago and to the Kellogg place again. During 
this last time in the "boiler plate" factory, sixteen 
or eighteen years more, he did everything in the 
way of miscellaneous literature and found time 
to write hundreds of stories, poems and essays for 
magazines and humorous publications throughout 
the country, among them the New York Life, Times, 
Drake's Magazine and Detroit Free Press. For the 
last three years Welch has labored acceptably as a 


writer of pleasant literature for the American 
Lumberman. He takes pride and delight in his 
two sons, one of whom is a successful business 
man and the other a sergeant-major in the regular 

Franc B. Wilkie, the first president of the Chi- 
cago Press Club, of which organization Frank is a 
remarkably popular member, was an admiring 
friend of Welch and Mr. Wilkie, just before his 
death, expressed a special desire to have Frank 
at his bedside. Welch has many affectionate let- 
ters from Mr. Wilkie that he cherishes as among 
his heart treasures. 

All in all, Frank Welch is a brilliant wit, a poet 
of the "born" kind, a good citizen, a truthful and 
brave man, a faithful friend and an affectionate 
and indulgent father and husband. 

Following are two of Mr. Welch's pieces of 
verse exhibiting the serious and humorous sides 
of his nature: 


Croesus is dead; remove his robe 

And strip him of his gold; 
The reaper grim has come for him, 

His form lies still and cold. 
Tne crimson stream has ceased to flow, 
The haughty head is lying low, 
He's done with worldly pomp and show, 
Here rests his pulseless mold. 

Upon yon bier a pauper lies, 

His soul has taken flight; 
His senseless clay wears no display — 

Ah, 'tis a sorry sight. 
His unsuccessful course is run, 
With tribulation he is done, 
His perfect rest has just begun — 

The rest of death's long night. 




Lay this one in his marble tomb 

And yon one in the ground; 
O'er this a stately shaft uprear, 

O'er that a simple mound. 
But which shall sleep the sweeter sleep? 
Which first shall break the silence deep? 
Ah! they are equals in Death's keep 

Till Gabriel's trump shall sound. 


Or the end of a Hooting, Tooting, Shooting Terror 
of the Texas Plains. 

Rustling Rube was a bold, bad man, 

Oh, a howling wolf was he, 
And when he shook his gory locks 
The bravest of men would flee. 
With his guns in hand he would scourge the land 
On the Texas side of the Rio Grande, 

And never a soul would bar the way 
When Rube was out for a little play. 

Swooping down like a cyclone fell 

On a town he'd pounce, and when 
He struck a place he'd make it hot 
For the common run of men; 
With his awful roar he would yell for gore, 
Tho' he swam in blood he would howl for more, 
And never a one would say him nay 
For they all liked Rube to have his way. 

Riding into a railway town 

This terror to men one day 
Happened to spy a tenderfoot 
Strolling along his way. 
With a fiendish yell he came down pell-mell 
^nd on that innocent tenderfoot fell, 
And never a hand was raised, alas: 
To check the horror that came to pass. 


Chaos reigned for a moment's space, 

A sickening thud, and then 
The tumult suddenly passed away 
And quietness came again. 
But, alack-a-day! on the ground there lay 
A form that was nothing but pulseless clay, 
And never a tear at all was shed 
O'er the stricken man that lay there dead. 

Rustling Rube had passed up his claim — 

The earth was no longer his — 
They said the ugly plug had gone 
To the place where sinners sizz. 
Ah, a sad mistake did the rustler make — 
'Twas a football player he sought to break. 
They laid the terror where trantlers creep, 
Ana they loved the man who put him to sleep. 

Frank Welch's great-grandfather, John Arch- 
dale — Yorkshireman — and his family came to Chi- 
cago, over the old sand trail, from New York in 
1836, his first place of residence being at the cor- 
ner of Randolph and La Salle streets, on the 
Court-house lot. From that spot Archdale's large 
family spread out, settling in Illinois, Michigan 
and Wisconsin. 

They are Welch's "side line." 

There are a great many more of these bright 
humorists that I know, and whom it would be a 
pleasure to write about, but this history must stop 
somewhere, and this seems to be an inviting spot. 

There may be those who will entertain a feeling 
of resentment that they have not been exploited 
herein. This might be painful to the author if 
he should learn of the individual cases. However, 
that might be neutralized by the knowledge that 
there are others who will be pleased for the seem- 
ing inattention. 



To the philosopher obscurity is a comfort — 
when one can afford it. 

The general reader — I was going to say "the 
disinterested reader," but shall hope there will be 
none such — may wonder that all those who have 
been written of in this work show, here, no dis- 
agreeable characteristics. It is easy enough to 
explain that. I am stalk blind to the faults of my 
friends — if they have any. Besides, 

"There is so much good in the worst of us, 
And so much bad in the best of us, 
It hardly behooves any of us 
To speak ill of the rest of us." 




iTS f *3 t^ « -A 

,* ,o 

- /r » , , , ■ 


PN 6155 
Copy 1 


urn u 111 mill MM 

021 100 884 2